An intergovernmental agreement between Barnstable County Commissioners and Dukes County to provide enhanced support for child victims of crime was approved last week.
A press release issued by Barnstable County states that the expanded collaboration between Children’s Cove: Cape and Island’s Child Advocacy Center and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services means services will now be available on the Island.
This means that families in need of support will no longer have to travel off-Island to the Children’s Cove offices in Barnstable.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said the program expansion marks a significant step forward for the Island community. He called the partnership agreement a “positive initiative that will serve both the residents and visitors of Martha’s Vineyard remarkably well.”
“Asking victims who have suffered from significant emotional trauma to then have to travel to Barnstable for a forensic interview has always been a logistical challenge for the Island police departments,” McNamee said. “Being able to now conduct this process locally is a huge step forward for both the victims of these horrible crimes as well as their families.”
Under the new agreement, Children’s Cove will be able to conduct forensic interviews with child victims of crime at the MVCS Connect to End Violence program office.
Connect is a free and confidential resource program that offers support to victims of domestic and sexual violence in the forms of counseling, safety planning, crisis intervention, and legal advocacy.
Founded in 1997, Children’s Cove serves as a department within Barnstable County, and provides families throughout the Cape and Islands with a great number of resources for child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, witness to domestic violence, exploitation, and trafficking.
Staff from MVCS and Children’s Cove have worked collaboratively to develop the new Island office, which will involve a forensic interview room, observation area for a multidisciplinary team, and family waiting room.
“MVCS and the Connect to End Violence program have been vital partners with Children’s Cove for years,” Children’s Cove Director Stacy Gallagher said in a recent press release. “We are proud that by coming together and innovating, we can alleviate additional burdens for children and families who have already experienced such difficulty in their lives.”
Director of the Connect to End Violence program Jennifer Neary agreed.
“We are grateful to Children’s Cove for their dedication to remove barriers when Island families are navigating the unimaginable,” she said.
“Abuse of children happens in our community. It is our hope that through this enhanced collaboration, children and their nonoffending guardians will feel better supported, knowing that they can remain in their community without further hardships,” she is quoted.
A statement from the office of Cape and Islands District Attorney Rob Galibois praised the collaborative efforts of the two organizations.
“Child advocacy centers, such as Children’s Cove, play a critical role in the investigation of abuse while providing necessary services to foster the healing of victims,” the DA’s office said. “The physical location of a child advocacy center at Connect to End Violence finally affords long-needed, timely accessibility to these crucial services to our youngest victims and their families on Martha’s Vineyard.”
Children’s Cove operates in close collaboration with local law enforcement, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and provides a child-friendly, safe, and confidential space “where child victims of crime and abuse receive a streamlined, collaborative, and supportive approach to the investigation of these cases,” Barnstable’s announcement states.
“This expanded partnership was established by a process like the one that created Children’s Cove — a small group of community leaders sat down and discussed the future of their children, and what the community needed to do to help children who are victims of sexual abuse and violence,” the announcement states. “Through foresight, commitment, compassion, and ingenuity, each agency found a way to continue working together and expanding partnerships to help children.”
“Barnstable County Children’s Cove believes that with ongoing partnerships, like the one with MVCS, our communities will move closer to a world where children are free of abuse, have a voice that is heard, and where they enjoy healthy, safe, and empowered lives,” the release says. “We are proud that by coming together and innovating, we can alleviate additional burdens for children and families who have already experienced such difficulty in their lives.”