The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County partner agency staff/service providers are highly trained professionals dedicated to working with child victims of abuse and their caregivers. Currently (these) services are available at our partner agencies'/service providers' present locations. Enhancements to services presently offered and method of delivery will occur once the CACSC partners are housed together in a single, child focused facility.
The Exploited and Missing Child Unit (EMCU) provides the investigation piece for child abuse cases. Investigators from the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office and social workers from Kansas Department for Children and Families work as a team to investigate over 2,000 cases a year of child abuse, missing and abducted children, internet exploitation, and other crimes against children.
In recognition of the sensitive nature of these cases, EMCU receives specialized training in forensic interviewing and crimes against children that enables them to perform their duties with the least amount of trauma to the child victims. There are multiple phases to any investigation - these can include interviewing the victim, witnesses, and the perpetrator; identifying corroborating (or supporting) evidence; presenting evidence for the prosecution of the offender; and to provide services and resources to the child and their caregivers.
The first priority for the investigators of child abuse is to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. If there is a suspicion of physical abuse, the child often receives a medical examination and treatment at a local health care facility. When there is a question that the child has suffered sexual abuse, the investigation team contacts a staff member of either the Via Christi Health Forensic Nurse Program or the Wesley Medical Center Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Team Program. The Nurse Examiners have comprehensive and specialized training in the evaluation and treatment of victims of child sexual abuse and assist the investigators in deciding what type of exam is most appropriate at that time.
If the sexual abuse took place within the last 120 hours or the child is bleeding and/or complains of pain the child should receive an "acute" exam. This type of exam takes place as soon as possible and includes a complete head-to-toe medical/forensic exam including forensic evidence collection. After this exam, investigators secure all forensic evidence from the exam and are responsible for the storage and/or processing of this evidence. If the last possible contact between the child and the abuser occurred more than 120 hours ago, an exam that includes the head-to-toe assessment will be schedule at a time convenient for the individuals involved. At the end of either type of exam, the Nurse Examiner will discuss the findings, provide treatment (if necessary), and talk about follow-up care.
The CACSC offers advocacy services to child victims of abuse and their non-offending caregivers. CAC services begin at the onset of an investigation of abuse. One goal of the CACSC is to reduce the trauma that victims (and their caregivers) experience because of the abuse. A Child Family Advocate is available to help make the process less overwhelming, provide support, answer questions, and assist in referrals.
The Child Family Advocate provides crisis services, information on rights of the non-offending parents and child, assistance with the Crime Victims' Compensation application process, supportive counseling, access to resources, therapy referrals, and assistance in navigating the medical/legal systems. In instances where additional advocacy services are needed, the Child Family Advocate will refer to other partner agencies such as the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. At the family's request, the Child/Family Advocate can continue to be available even after other CACSC services conclude.
The Juvenile Division of the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office provides the legal component for child abuse, neglect and sexual assault cases presented to them by EMCU. The Juvenile Division is divided into two areas of practice: the offender side that brings criminal charges against and prosecutes offenders under the age of eighteen, and the Child in Need of Care Unit can intervene on behalf of the child who has suffered abuse, neglect and sexual assault. The decision of future legal action is determined by multiple factors that includes case evidence, testimony and witness cooperation. In some instances, it is the decision to take no further legal action. When an offender is formally charged, the case is assigned to a prosecutor, who typically follows the case to its completion.
A prosecutor from the Criminal Division of the District Attorney's Office handles the case if charges are filed against an adult offender. This prosecutor will work with the child victim throughout the process of filing charges and prosecution of the case through the court system.
An on-site therapist at the CACSC provides therapeutic services for children and their non-offending caregivers traumatized by physical abuse, neglect and/or sexual abuse. The therapist is most often able to schedule an initial session with the child and/or family/caregiver within 10 days of coming to the CACSC. For many clients this encourages an earlier start to the healing process. Each client receives individualized treatment services that address their specific therapeutic needs. Mental health services for children can also be provided by other community agencies such as the Mental Health Association Counseling Center, Youthville/Family Consultation Services, Kansas Children's Service League/Wichita Child Guidance Center, and COMCARE of Sedgwick County. Services include individual counseling, play and/or art therapy, family therapy, and support groups. Referrals are also available to the child and/or caregiver to a private provider when appropriate.