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Char Rivette’s Testimony for Chicago City Council Committee on Education and Child Development

November 28, 2018

Good morning members of the committee. My name is Char Rivette and I am the Executive Director of Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. Thank you for inviting me here today and for your attention to this matter.

Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and our public partners are the front-line responders in Chicago to all reports of child sexual abuse. We also respond to other reports of violence against children. Each year, we respond to more than 2,000 reports of child sexual abuse, seeking justice for children, holding abusers accountable, and restoring the lives of children and their families. We’ve done this for more than 34,000 children since opening in 2001.

Every day, we coordinate the efforts of dedicated professionals from the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Stroger Hospital to reduce the trauma caused by abuse and by the complexity of investigations. At the same time, we increase the effectiveness of the process itself. ChicagoCAC employs forensic interviewers, family advocates, case coordinators, mental health professionals, and other support staff who work to streamline the investigative process, and ensure that children and their families receive the services needed to heal from sexual abuse. We do all of this in our child-friendly, co-located facility in the Illinois Medical District.

Over the past few years, we have increased our community-based education to youth-serving organizations and now train over 8,000 adults per year. Our trainings are focused on preventing, recognizing, responding to and reporting child sexual abuse.

In June, we announced that our existing partnership with Chicago Public Schools would be dramatically expanded to help it address the issues identified by the Chicago Tribune in its handling of sexual abuse reports. Since that time, ChicagoCAC has provided the following:

  • in-person training to more than 1,000 CPS leaders, principals and assistant principals on sexual abuse response and prevention,
  • specialized in-person clinical training on supporting students after sexual abuse for 2,000 CPS Counselors and Related Service Providers, such as social workers and psychologists.
  • co-created a training video with the Office of Student Health and Wellness that was viewed by about 45,000 CPS employees, either through a facilitated in-person 2-hour discussion or via a self-study online, and
  • engaged in a variety of in-person meetings to further establish our lasting partnership together regarding our investigative services and clinical services.

Through this partnership, our goal is to ensure that reports are made immediately, that children are not interviewed repeatedly, that criminal and child welfare investigations are not inadvertently compromised, and that investigative work conducted by CPS is done in a manner consistent with best practice and in the best interest of victims. We know that CPS is working tirelessly toward these goals and we have found them to be good stewards of their promises to change policies and do more trainings to protect children in our work together. There is much more work to be done, however, in this current school year and in many to come.

In the coming months, we will be focusing on developing our partnership related to:

  • enhancement of student support by partnering with the Office of Student Protection’s Director of Title IX Coordination,
  • development of written MOUs for working in collaboration on OSP and OIG investigations when the child victim has also come to ChicagoCAC, to reduce the trauma experienced by the child,
  • further work on a mandatory all staff training, building upon the training from this current year and adding new policies and procedures as they are finalized, and
  • legislative advocacy at the city, state and federal level to ensure our work and the children we serve are supported at every level of our society.

Chicago is a city that works hard, and that is certainly what we’ve experienced so far in partnering with Chicago Public Schools. Many there are working tirelessly to improve school culture and prevent violence. We will continue to expect no less of them as we work toward our ultimate goal of a city and a world free of sexual harm and violence. I also want to emphasize that protecting Chicago’s youth from sexual harm is not exclusively a Chicago Public Schools issue, but an issue that needs to be addressed throughout all institutions caring for children in different capacities. I urge the City Council to look more broadly at how the City can support sexual abuse prevention initiatives.  I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.

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