25 Years of Hope and Healing
November 15th, 2022
Children’s Cove, the Cape & Islands Child Advocacy Center, started in a little room at the Barnstable County Courthouse. Before that, children who were victims of a sexual assault did not have privacy when they were interviewed by law enforcement, social workers, or medical professionals, and often needed to repeat their stories of trauma. In addition, the overall atmosphere of seeing people in orange suits from the county jail and police officers with guns on their side, terrified them.
The Cape and Islands District Attorney at that time, Phillip Rollins, could not tolerate seeing children who had experienced sexual trauma in the courthouse. He had compassion for the young victims and believed there should be other avenues to help them.
So, in 1997, a small group of community leaders, including the District Attorney’s Office and Barnstable County Commissioners, sat down and discussed how to better support children who experienced the trauma of sexual assault. They understood that the law enforcement system, at the time, was not designed for children. They decided to establish the first Cape and Islands Children’s Advocacy Center, which evolved into Children’s Cove.
Children’s Cove is the place where children in their darkest hours receive child friendly comprehensive specialized services, where they are treated with kindness, compassion, and understanding. It is a place where their voice is heard. Over the last twenty-five years, Children’s Cove has helped thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse by providing them access to services and community support to help them not only recover from their trauma, but to thrive.
As a nationally accredited center, Children’s Cove stands with over 900 child advocacy centers across the country and 12 centers in the Commonwealth, who share the collective mission to protect children. Our staff has created a collaborative multidisciplinary response to crimes against children. Because of the collective work of Children’s Cove and its partners, children have a team to stand beside them as the healing process begins.
The increase in referrals also highlights the need for more clinical and supportive services.
It is those collaborative partnerships that will continue to enhance services for children who are victims of sexual trauma. Our trusted partners include the Cape & Islands law enforcement agencies, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance, and numerous community programs.
While the public health crisis of childhood sexual abuse and trauma is an epidemic we wish to eradicate, until we reach that fateful day, we will not waiver from our goal to increase comprehensive services to address the crisis.
Because of this commitment, we would like to highlight our planned expansion of programs, services, and physical space to make room for exciting initiatives.
As requests for prevention education from parents, community members and professional partners are at an all-time high, we decided to expand our community outreach program, and create an online learning program at no cost to our multidisciplinary partners.
Over the last year, our direct services program has added two new forensic interviewers. We also expanded our child exploitation program coordination to address the risks of those greatest in need. These additions were necessary as we experienced an over 80% increase in referrals for children who have been sexually exploited online or directly in our community since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In fact, we had a record number of referrals this year – over 230 children receiving services, which is an increase of nearly 50% from last year, and more than double those seen in the previous year. The increase in referrals also highlights the need for more clinical and supportive services. To address this need we will be breaking ground to physically expand our building to increase office space, make renovations for a brand-new medical suite, and begin a new on-site clinical program at Children’s Cove over the next year.
Historically, Children’s Cove has provided training to our local mental health providers as part of our agency’s commitment to increase the number of trauma informed professionals who can support child abuse survivors. In the near future, we will expand our staff to include our own mental health clinicians to increase our ability to provide on-site mental health services to children most in need.
With support from the Cape and Islands legislative delegation we have increased the hours for our Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner to adequately meet the needs of our community. As part of the new expansion and remodeling, we will have a new medical suite which will be dedicated to former District Attorney Phillip Rollins and his family to honor his legacy for championing the vision of Children’s Cove.
For 25 years, we have provided compassionate, comprehensive, and collaborative response services at no cost to survivors of child abuse through our evidence-based programs, network of community partnerships, educational outreach, and awareness efforts. Our multidisciplinary team works together to empower survivors, promote healthy outcomes, and help mitigate the stigma of child abuse. We work continuously to improve our services for child victims, and we remain committed to create a community where children are free of abuse, have a voice that is heard, and where they enjoy healthy, safe, and empowered lives.