New Santa Clara County facility consolidates help and services for child-abuse survivors

SAN JOSE — Starting Monday, children who have suffered sexual and physical abuse in Santa Clara County will no longer have to endure a gauntlet of scattered visits to get the help they need.

The new Children’s Advocacy Center — located across from O’Connor Hospital in San Jose — geographically consolidates forensic exams and interviews, referrals to mental-health services, and appointments with police and victim advocates.

Erin O’Brien, CEO of of the nonprofit Community Solutions, said the integration of resources in one location will ensure affected children and their families “are connected to ongoing services and support after they leave,” and minimize the need to repeatedly re-live their experiences under past frameworks.

“Having all of the partners under the same roof will help reduce the trauma to children and families of having to be interviewed and re-interviewed multiple times,” she said.

On Thursday, leaders from community-based support organizations and county law enforcement got a sneak peek at the facility, which has been the subject of two decades of planning and an infusion of $6 million in county funds over the past year to renovate the 11,000-square-foot space.

County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the last push to get the center up and running was fueled by the recognition of of service gaps in the county safety net.

“This center is going to contribute not just to the investigations of these crimes, but also — and I’m very excited to say this — to the healing that’s so necessary when these crimes are committed,” Chavez said.

New San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata was on hand, as were Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Chief Phan Ngo, Gilroy Police Chief Pedro Espinoza, Undersheriff Ken Binder and San Jose State University Police Chief Gina Di Napoli.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen noted that the center is starting up in a nascent post-pandemic era when authorities expect an increase in reported child abuse, as children once again have access to a “circle of adults” — such as teachers and coaches — who were often the people to whom they reported their illicit treatment.

“Every child needs a team, and victims of child abuse and their families truly need champions,” he said.

Dan Little, director of the county Department of Family and Children’s Services, said that basing some of his staff out of the new center will streamline the assessment of where children reporting abuse can be safely released, whether it’s to their parents, relatives, or through other arrangements.

Assistant District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro called the center “a huge leap forward” and said it “moves us from the silos that police and medical staff and victim advocates have been working in, to a true coordinated effort to help kids who need the best that we can give them.”

Officials estimate that the center will be able to help more than 300 children and their families in its first year of operation.

“Moving in together is a big deal,” he said. “By working together, we’re going to serve the children better.”

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Author: Robert Salonga

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