This is part of an ongoing series featuring community members and organizations that partner with One Place and its Child Advocacy Center to fight child abuse. This entry focuses on One Place’s military-connected partners that, working with law-enforcement agencies such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, help provide advocacy, treatment, and a protective umbrella for families.
Camp Lejeune and other area military bases take an all-hands-on-deck approach in preventing and responding to child abuse.
Law enforcement aboard Lejeune and New River air station has embraced a leadership role that extends to both military and civilian communities. The emphasis on confronting sexual and other forms of physical abuse of children by such agencies as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service not only has shaped an enlightened response in military circles but also has promoted a fully collaborative approach with civilian agencies such as One Place and Onslow County’s Child Protective Services. (The role of military law enforcement was featured in a recent One Place blog titled “Military Leads by Example in Fight Against Child Abuse.)
The response by military police and other investigators is only part of the story. The direct contacts with families and victims by professionals at the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune and the Family Advocacy Programs at Camp Lejeune and New River also are essential to repairing the damage caused by abuse.
First contacts with victims can occur at the Naval Medical Center while medical-care providers are treating patients. The Naval Hospital employs a clinical social worker who quickly can begin the process of evaluating cases and working with adults and children who are potential victims of abuse. If it is determined that the trauma sustained could be related to abuse, the situation is turned over to military law enforcement for investigation.
The Naval Hospital’s social worker, a position held since January by Tonya Stanley, works with law enforcement for follow up on any criminal or other judicial investigation and with the Family Advocacy Program to ensure that treatment is provided to potential victims and their families.
The Family Advocacy Program operates under the Behavioral Health Program at Marine Corps Community Services and provides a wide range of programs and services aimed at preventing domestic abuse. There are FAP offices at both Camp Lejeune and New River. The goal is to ensure education, support and treatment. The professionals who work there offer counseling, case management and victim advocacy.
While law-enforcement agencies pursue investigations that could lead to criminal charges or other disciplinary action, the Family Advocacy Program focuses on services to victims of abuse as well as those who are identified as alleged abusers, said Cassandra Almond, who has worked for the Family Advocacy Program at Camp Lejeune for nine years, including four years as branch manager.
The mission is prevention, intervention and treatment in an environment that is unique to military service. Even before a case is resolved legally, FAP staff work to ensure that family members are protected and those involved are working to improve relationship skills and coping mechanisms.
Almond explained the relationship between the Family Advocacy Program and law enforcement: “FAP works with law enforcement to report incidents of abuse and to obtain information for purposes of reviewing incidents through an administrative, non-judicial process. FAP collaborates with NCIS, CID, PMO, and external law enforcement agencies in their response to allegations of abuse, however, the primary purpose of FAP is to provide services and support to all members of the family.”
Kathleen Holbrook, director of the One Place Child Advocacy Center, said the FAP’s role in the military community is like the role of the CAC, but more expansive. “Any time you have an active-duty military person who is an alleged offender or victim of abuse or neglect, then the Family Advocacy Center becomes involved,” Holbrook said. “They provide advocates to the individuals who are affected by abuse and neglect, and that could be domestic violence, it could be child abuse, it could be sexual assault.”
The military provides two avenues for service-connected adults to report abuse. “Restricted reporting” allows adult victims the option of reporting abuse to an appropriate individual without initiating the investigative process or requiring notification to the victim’s or alleged offender’s commander. “Unrestricted reporting” allows a victim of a form of domestic abuse to report an incident through traditional reporting channels—chain of command, law enforcement or criminal investigative organization, and Family Advocacy Program. Unrestricted reports can trigger criminal investigations and chain-of-command notifications.
A key part of the Marine Corps’ response is the Incident Determination Committee, or IDC. The IDC is a multidisciplinary unit that determines how a situation should be addressed—whether further criminal investigation is appropriate and who should receive services such as counseling. Services for an alleged active-duty offender can be required, while services may be offered to military dependents.
Military law enforcement and Family Advocacy Program representatives also sit on the Multidisciplinary Teams that oversee cases referred to the Child Advocacy Center. In addition to case-by-case consultation, FAP members provide the CAC with information on services and resources that might help military families.
In addition to the FAP and military law enforcement representatives, the CAC’s Multidisciplinary Teams are comprised of personnel from One Place, local law enforcement, social services, medical providers and others who come together to discuss cases involving children and provide feedback. The CAC conducts the forensic interviews and medical examinations of child victims in support of investigations for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
As FAP branch manager, Almond said cooperation and information exchange with the CAC are critically important to community efforts to reduce child abuse. “I recognize the value of the relationship FAP has with the CAC in Onslow County, as not every state or county has such an established partnership,” she said.
“Through collaboration and communication with the CAC, FAP has increased awareness of incidents, community services, and resources, which significantly benefits our clients,” Almond said. “We value the relationship we have with One Place and the CAC, as we collaborate on cases and community efforts to reduce child abuse.”
Mike Williams is supervisory special agent at NCIS’s Carolinas Field Office who works in a civilian capacity to investigate abuse cases. He was an active-duty Marine working with the NCIS when development of the CAC was underway prior to its opening in 2010. He sees the cooperation between the Family Advocacy Program and the Child Advocacy Center as the promise of a concept coming to fruition. “The unwavering support these agencies provide to each other in furtherance to helping children and their families is nothing short of exemplary,” he said.
Williams and family advocates such as Almond recognize how the challenges facing young military families increase the urgency of child protection. The frustrations of a transient, uncertain and demanding life can intersect with still-developing coping and parenting skills to create a potentially volatile situation. “Many service members and their spouses find themselves hundreds of miles from their natural support systems,” Almond said.
The emphasis on finding solutions through a cooperative approach has increased throughout the armed services in recent years. “The protection of our children and families connected with the military is paramount, and the partnerships in the local community make this possible,” Williams said. “One Place is one such agency that is partnered with the military and local community to ensure children are protected.”
Likewise, Holbrook and her colleagues at One Place recognize that the community, particularly its children, has benefited from efforts to work together. Holbrook points to local military leadership as a catalyst for a positive environment that distinguishes Onslow County among places that host military bases. “We work together seamlessly, cooperatively, collaboratively.”
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