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Jolene’s Law Task Force Update


Jolene’s Law Task Force is to be commended. All too often people seek simple answers to complicated problems. Not this time. Over the past year and a half, with the leadership of Senator Deb Soholt, the child abuse professionals and legislators on the Task Force have gathered information, compiled data, and gained insight into the sexual abuse of children in South Dakota. They had the wisdom to examine the issue from various improvement perspectives and the audacity to consider large-scale changes – “big ideas” that would make a difference. Soon we will see the results of this work in the form of their Findings and Recommendations in Jolene’s Law Task Force Report to the Governor.



Those following the progress of the Task Force know that early-on the Task Force realized the importance of setting a statistical benchmark for the prevalence of child sexual abuse in South Dakota. It’s not as easy as it sounds.   Different agencies track different elements of child sexual abuse incidences.


With the leadership of Senator Alan Solano and the cooperation of law enforcement, child protection services, and child advocacy centers, a statistical “look back” over three months was compiled and statistical benchmarks were achieved.


This data shows the current prevalence of sexual abuse of children in South Dakota and supports the case to improve our state’s response.



One of the major proposals coming out of the Task Force is the USD Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment. In addition to improving child maltreatment education and training in undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology, counseling, social work, public health, medicine, nursing, law and education, the USD Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment would coordinate education, outreach, and research initiatives that increase public awareness and prevention of child maltreatment and sexual abuse throughout the State. The proposal has the support of the Board of Regents.


To become a reality, the USD Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment will need budgetary approval by the Legislature.



Another substantive proposal is to improve the criminal justice and child protection response to the sexual abuse of children by committing to the Multi-Disciplinary Team and Child Advocacy Center (CAC) model as a best practice for responding to child sexual abuse in South Dakota.


The proposal is to implement regional expert multi-disciplinary child sexual abuse response teams across the state, starting with a pilot project in 13 counties around Watertown. The intent is for all child sexual abuse cases to be responded to by a multi-disciplinary team of trained child sexual abuse professionals and that all child sexual abuse cases be referred to Child Advocacy Centers for forensic interviews and victim and family services. Education and training about responding to child sexual abuse and the CAC/MDT model will be a necessary component of the pilot project and the resulting statewide efforts.



The Task Force also addressed Prevention Education, improving Public Awareness, and improving training for mandatory child abuse reporters who are already in the field during their Task Force meetings. There will likely be recommendations in those areas too.


Transforming “ideas that make a difference” into “action that makes a difference” will take multiple agencies, departments, organizations, and individuals who are committed and willing to work on these changes. The Task Force is interested in being able to stay with this endeavor over the next year and provide some oversight to the implementation of their recommendations.


With leadership from Jolene’s Law Task Force and collaboration among public and private organizations, we can – and will make a difference for children in South Dakota.

The Child Advocacy Centers of South Dakota

CACSD is a network of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient – and put the needs of child victims first.

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What can you do?

Reporting abuse or neglect can protect a child and get help for a family – it may even save a child’s life. Learn more about reporting child abuse here.