Campus / News / April 20, 2011

Students reach out to children

Many students complain about the “Knox bubble” separating students from the Galesburg community.  Junior Jenna Temkin is breaking out of the bubble to intern at the Knox County Child Advocacy Center (CAC). 

“I mainly wanted to be more involved in Galesburg,” Temkin said, who took the social service internship class after working with a nonprofit over the summer. 

CAC works with children who are victims of sexual or severe physical abuse as a resource for their families and a go-between to the law enforcement and legal systems. 

According to Becky Rossman, director of the CAC, their purpose is to “aid in criminal investigations and lessen trauma to victims and their families.” 

The center receives referrals from law enforcement, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), or the State’s Attorney’s office to interview the victims, according to Andrea Tenley, the center’s family advocate.  

The interviews must follow a protocol; the interviewer’s job is to get the facts while remaining objective and non-leading. They can have no previous contact with the child and know only the child’s name, age and whether they have a disability. 

According to Tenley, it is difficult for her not to comfort the child until after the interview, when the interviewers thank them, tell them they did a good job, offer them a stuffed animal and “let them know 10 times, ‘It’s not your fault.’”

The interview is recorded and watched by law enforcement agents and DCFS in another room, and they can type questions which the interviewer translates into age appropriate language. The interview involves basic information, filling out anatomy charts, talking about safe and unsafe touches and educating the child.  

They try to make the interview as easy for the child as possible, but “it’s not an easy thing for a kid to do,” Tenley said.  

After the interview, CAC provides counseling services for the child and family and connects them to community resources such as food and legal services. If the case goes to court, the center also helps prepare the child, sits with the family and defends their interviews. 

They are there for the family throughout the process, and often call the family to see if they have questions.

 “It’s nice to have someone say, ‘I don’t have the answer but I’ll find out and call you back,’” she said. 

The center is constantly working on many cases; some are open for a year. 

“The CAC provides so many services that child sexual abuse victims can’t get anywhere else … it fills a hole in the community,” Temkin said. 

Temkin spent time as an intern observing and learning how the CAC works. She also worked on a grant proposal and did administrative work, such as filing and stuffing envelopes.  

Temkin enjoyed working with Tenley and Rossman.

“They’re both hilarious; it’s easy in a job like that to get depressed but they find ways to stay upbeat and positive,” she said.

She added, “I like feeling like I’m making come sort of positive impact on the organization.”

Temkin also worked to organize a silent auction and fundraising walk for the center. 

On May 14 the center is having a Champions4Children Walk to raise funds and awareness for children who are victims of abuse. This year the walk is being held in Monmouth to celebrate their satellite office in Monmouth, which is opening the same day. 

A silent auction the night before will raise funds for the center as well. 

The center has also been selling t-shirts, mainly to raise awareness.

“They’re not a big money-maker,” Tenley said.

“Child sexual abuse is a big issue in the community and lots of people aren’t aware,” Temkin said. 

Gretchen Walljasper

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