NORMAN — Child abuse is not a modern phenomena, but it’s one that has come out of the shadows of ignorance and denial in recent times.
Organized facilities for children’s advocacy such as Mary Abbott Children’s House in downtown Norman have been instrumental in that change.
“Working with a multi-disciplinary team as closely as we do is a really uplifting experience,” Executive Director Clint Williams said. “It’s a joy to watch all the professionals bring their areas of expertise to the table as we work on these cases.”
The team he refers to includes law enforcement, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, mental health care providers, medical professionals, family advocates and forensic interviewers. They’re the ones involved when suspected instances of child abuse come to light.
At the request of law enforcement or DHS Child Protective Services, the Mary Abbott House provides highly trained forensic interviewers to speak with possible victims or witnesses of abuse. This is accomplished in a child-friendly, non-judgmental manner.
Mary Abbott House also provides medical assessments and educational outreach about child abuse detection and prevention to the community.
“Some people have the misconception that the House is a residential center,” Williams said. “We’re very much a point-in-time service. The children are only here a couple of hours and then usually we never see them again. The work goes on long after the kids leave here, however.”
From the Mary Abbott House, case work associated with what’s learned from the children continues in other venues. Mental health counseling is common and readily available in Norman. Legal proceedings often are involved.
“One of the satisfactions of this job is when we get together once a month for our case staffing and hear about the children after they’ve left here,” he said. “And we hear about them continuing on that path of healing. It’s rewarding to know that counseling progress has been made, even though we don’t see it physically here at the House.”