- ChildFirst SC
- Forensic Interview
- Forensic Medical Exam
The Assessment and Resource Center Victim Advocate assists clients and their caregivers who are in crisis to traverse the multiple systems they encounter during the investigation. Victim Advocacy services may include assisting in scheduling appointments; acting as a liaison between the family and law enforcement or prosecution; answering questions about the services provided at the Assessment and Resource Center ; providing referrals to necessary resources; helping caregivers file applications with the State Office of Victim Assistance; and consulting with Multi-Disciplinary Team. The Assessment and Resource Center Victim Advocate is part of the ongoing effort to reduce stress on families and is available to them for whatever needs may arise.
The Assessment & Resource Center for Richland County trains front-line child protection professionals to respond quickly, sensitively and skillfully to cases of child abuse. Students learn the skills necessary to conduct an investigative interview --also known as a forensic interview—of a suspected child abuse victim.
The training program, ChildFirst South Carolina, is conducted at the Assessment and Resource Center and the Assessment and Resource Center ’s staff provides the faculty for the training. The interactive course is conducted over five days and includes classroom instruction via lectures and demonstrations, homework assignments, and role-play interviews with professional actors playing the roles of abused children. There is a written examination at the end of the course.
The training has the following objectives:
- Understanding the CornerHouse forensic interview process (RATAC) for interviewing children about abuse;
- Understanding the benefits of using a multidisciplinary approach when interviewing children about possible abuse;
- Applying the information and techniques by participating in role-play interviews;
- Understanding what it means to act as a “neutral” professional when obtaining information from the child during a forensic interview; and
- Reading the significant research and professional articles related to the forensic interviewing of children.
The Assessment and Resource Center’s primary mission as an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is to provide forensically sound, developmentally appropriate fact-finding interviews in a child-friendly environment. We interview children and teenagers between the ages of 3 and 18. Additionally, we sometimes provide such interviews to adults with developmental delays or other functional impairments. Our interviews, which we video record, are generally conducted at the request of an involved law enforcement or child protective services agency. Under some circumstances, the Assessment and Resource Center will conduct an interview at the request of a medical care provider. Assessment and Resource Center interviewers have specialized training in forensic interviewing techniques, as well as child development, childhood disorders, memory and suggestibility, and other areas relevant to child abuse professionals.
Forensic Medical Exam
Often, parents are nervous at the thought of a medical exam looking for signs of child abuse. At the Assessment and Resource Center, your child will meet the Child Life Specialist, who has special training in assisting children in medical settings. The Child Life Specialist (CLS) will explain every aspect of the exam to your child, using words he/she can understand, and will show your child the exam room and equipment. Your child will then meet the doctor and nurse, and the CLS will stay with your child for the exam. No part of the exam is painful, and your child will be given many choices during the exam, so that he/she will feel in control. You can expect your child to return to the waiting room cheerful and proud of participating!
Staff members at the Assessment and Resource Center collaborate with investigators from many disciplines as they discharge their duties in evaluating allegations of child maltreatment and neglect. The Assessment and Resource Center coordinates and serves on The Richland County Child Abuse Investigation Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). MDT was developed in 1993 to provide service to victims of crime -- The Richland County MDT consists of the agencies charged with responding to complaints of child abuse, including local law enforcement, DSS, the Solicitor's Office and the Assessment and Resource Center, where medical examinations, forensic interviews and mental health services are provided. The team regularly meets to review cases and coordinate its efforts to reduce duplication of services, increase communication between agencies and diminish the burdens placed on victims and their families.
The Assessment & Resource Center provides evidence-based therapeutic services to children and families who have experienced trauma. The services provided are tailored to meet the child and family’s specific needs based on a thorough assessment with the family and also with school staff to evaluate how the child is functioning in the educational environment. We believe that the best way to shape successful outcomes is to use a team approach, incorporating the child, family, and school staff to elicit lasting changes and promote healing. As part of this team approach, children are evaluated by a psychiatrist for any medication needs and if indicated will be followed by the psychiatrist for medication management.
The length of time a child and family will need to be in therapy is unique to each family’s situation. At the Assessment and Resource Center , we will work closely with each family to incorporate the best treatment strategy so that all areas of functioning are being enhanced. We encourage open communication about the therapeutic process and are willing to provide each family with expert resources to help with their needs. All treatment approaches offered at the Assessment and Resource Center take into account cultural diversity, developmental perspectives, and attachment styles.
At the Assessment and Resource Center, we provide the following therapeutic services:
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Systematic treatment approach for children and families using cognitive-behavioral techniques to enhance positive coping and regulation of behaviors
Parent Child Interaction Therapy
Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based treatment protocol developed to address symptoms related to some childhood mental health problems, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct problems. PCIT is also an effective treatment to increase positive parenting practices while diminishing those practices that can be abusive. This manualized treatment is primarily performed with a parent or caregiver and their child between the ages of 2 and 7. Parents are taught skills in two phases of treatment to increase healthy interaction with their children. The two phases of treatment are Child Directed Interaction (CDI) and Parent Directed Interaction (PDI). Therapists who are trained in Parent Child Interaction Therapy coach parents while they interact with their children to develop these skills necessary to enhance healthy parent-child attachment as well as effectively manage disruptive behaviors. At the Assessment and Resource Center, all therapists have been trained in PCIT by Cheryl B. McNeil, Ph.d., of West Virginia University.
Protection Clarification Therapy
A family therapy designed to educate and provide protection strategies in the home environments; has also been used in situations were reunification between child and caregiver is needed.
Non-offending Caregiver Education and Support Groups
This is a short term education group at the Assessment and Resource Center for non-offending caregivers of children who have been sexually abused. It is a place where you can learn how to better help yourself and your child cope with the effects of abuse. We cover topics such as: how to talk with your child about their feelings; why your child might act or talk in ways that worry you and what you can do about it; what makes children more likely to tell about the abuse; how to be the best parent you can be for your child; how to teach your child about touches and safety; and information on the court system. This is a time where you can ask questions and learn from experts. If you are interested in learning more about group please contact Aimee Phipps, LMSW, at (803) 898-1470.
Trauma-focused Child and Adolescent Groups
Abuse-type and gender specific groups to promote normalization and positive coping
Preparing the child and family to testify in the courtroom
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adolescents who have Complex Trauma and severe emotional symptoms
Trauma-focused Play Therapy
Directed Play Therapy designed for very young children aged 3-7 with a focus on alleviating trauma symptoms
If you would like more information about the therapeutic services offered at the Assessment and Resource Center, please contact Heather M. Smith, MRC, LPC at 803-898-1470.