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Jolene’s Law Task Force “Final” Report and Next Steps

By Casey Murschel, CACSD Chapter Coordinator

 

The January 2016 Report to the Governor from the Jolene’s Law Task Force isn’t really a final report.

“Final” implies the end.

The work already done by the Task Force and the recommendations in the report for next steps are really just the beginning. We can improve prevention, intervention, response, and healing for child victims of sexual abuse in South Dakota. The report lays out ways to do it within the recommendations and goes on to identify the leadership needed to accomplish these tasks.

 

 The Task Force came to understand that:

1) child sexual abuse is a serious, significant issue in South Dakota,

2) at least 4000 kids in our state experience sexual abuse every year,

3) this topic is a public health priority for the safety and health of our kids,

4) it happens in all socio‐economic and race groups,

5) South Dakota adults need to lead a culture shift to protect our children,

6) the most powerful lever for change rests with mandatory reporters,

7) a coordinated system of response and early intervention must be developed, and

8) a single entity should be responsible to aggregate statewide child sexual abuse data.

They also came to the conclusion that any sustainable solution to reduce child sexual abuse in South Dakota will require establishing an academic Center for Child Maltreatment and a statewide coalition of vested stakeholders.

 

The Report lists thirty (30) Major Findings of the Task Force. Included among the Major Findings is that:

  • Annually at least 4,000 children experience sexual abuse in South Dakota.
  • Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a serious and costly public health concern.
  • Appreciably enhancing the undergraduate and graduate education of mandatory reporters in South Dakota would be a powerful lever for prevention and early detection of child sexual abuse.
  • Utilization of a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and Multi‐Disciplinary Team (MDT) approach is best practice in response to child sexual abuse.
  • School personnel identify 52% of all identified child abuse cases classified as causing harm to the child, more than any other profession or organizational type, including child protective services agencies and the police.
  • Any public campaign regarding child sexual abuse will need to arm South Dakota adults with language and response tools so that children are not re‐victimized.

 

Thirty-four (34) specific recommendations were identified and organized within six (6) topic areas: Statistics/Benchmarks, Public Health Priority, Mandatory Reporters, Criminal Justice and Child Protection Response, K-12 Education, and Public Awareness. Examples of the recommendations include:

  • Statistics/Benchmarks – Partner with South Dakota Kids Count to develop methodologies for accurate incidence reporting and to help inform effectiveness of implemented strategies.
  • Public Health Priority – Establish routine screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) within medical and mental health professional practices and in medical facilities – and then respond with excellence in treatment, evidence collection and reporting.
  • Mandatory Reporters – Establish a Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment at the University of South Dakota.
  • Criminal Justice and Child Protection Service Response – Develop and implement a Regional MDT SVU-CSA Pilot Project in 13 counties of the northeast part of the state, headquartered in Watertown and coordinated with the CAC in Sioux Falls.
  • K-12 Education – Conduct school survey in 2016 to inform strategies for improved response and reporting in South Dakota K-12 schools.
  • Public Awareness – Partner with statewide youth serving organizations to expand public awareness and education.

To accomplish the work specified in all 34 Task Force Recommendations, an overarching recommendation is identified. The Task Force recommends that a statewide Jolene’s Law Coalition be created with oversight by Jolene’s Law Task Force in 2016. Representatives from the following would be a part of the Jolene’s Law Coalition: Department of Health, Department of Social Services, Department of Education, Division of Criminal Investigation, South Dakota States Attorneys, Unified Judicial System, South Dakota CACs, Children’s Home Society, South Dakota Network Against Family Violence & Sexual Assault, State Sheriff’s Association, USD, and SDSU. Additionally, the USD Center for Child Maltreatment would provide the overall leadership to the Coalition, and a project manager would be engaged for 2016 to facilitate the work and assure recommendations continue to move forward.

 

“KNOW – RESPOND – PREVENT” will guide the work of the Jolene’s Law Coalition in implementing the report recommendations and will also guide the entities identified to provide leadership for these focus areas:

  • KNOW – The USD Center for Child Maltreatment will lead a statewide collaborative with all schools that educate mandatory reporters, and lead evidence‐based/research work that informs RESPOND & PREVENT, along with outcome measurement.
  • RESPOND – CPS and CACs 5 Regions System will lead a statewide collaborative to plan and implement an identified response structure, and lead a statewide collaborative design for best practice CAC involvement in every case.
  • PREVENT – Children’s Home Society will lead a statewide collaborative for public awareness and prevention, and lead a statewide collaborative for the K-12 education system.

The Jolene’s Law Task Force is an amazing group of child abuse professionals, legislators, and state department staff that through this report has provided steps we can take to KNOW about, RESPOND to, and PREVENT child sexual abuse in South Dakota. The Task Force has identified leadership for the work to be done. For the past two years Jolene’s Law Task Force members have been champions for child sexual abuse victims. Now, it’s our turn. It’s time for the rest of us to step up and face the reality of child sexual abuse in South Dakota, and do something about it. We need professionals and non-professional people alike to do what they can to KNOW about, RESPOND to, and PREVENT the sexual abuse of South Dakota children, and then, support these efforts across the state. The Jolene’s Law Task Force began this journey.

In order to see it through – we need to become champions too!

 

 

 

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.