Social Services

Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center

Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center

A program of the Allegany County Department of Social Services in partnership with Ardent Solutions, Inc.

Main Office: 772 Main Street, Olean, New York 14760

Allegany County Satellite Office: 22 West State Street, Wellsville, New York 14895

Business Office: 7 Court Street, Belmont, New York 14813

Phone Number: 716-372-8532

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Mission

Child Smiling With Hands Full Paint

The mission of the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center is to provide a coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach to child victims of sexual and physical abuse. We provide a safe, child-friendly environment for interviews, medical examinations and support to child victims and their non-offending family members.

We are committed to reducing trauma, promoting justice, and fostering healing thereby empowering victims. The Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center is designed to ensure that children are not further victimized by the intervention system designed to protect them. The STCAC is a child-friendly center where more than 50 professionals from 16 agencies in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties work together to investigate child abuse case and provide services to abused children. Cases are managed by a multidisciplinary team in a collaborative effort, each helping the other achieve the Center’s goals.

What Will Happen at the Child Advocacy Center?

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The Child Advocacy Center is a safe, child friendly location for children to come speak with trained interviewers or one of our medical providers. We know this can be an anxious time for you and your family. When we are able, one of our child advocates will be calling you before the interview or medical evaluation to answer any of your questions. But you do not have to wait. If you have questions and need answers, please call and ask to talk to the Family Advocate assigned to your child’s case. We would rather you call than worry.

At the Child Advocacy Center, we work with a team of professionals from law enforcement, child protective services, and the district attorney’s office. When you come to the Child Advocacy Center, you will be able to meet the professionals working on your child’s case and ask them further questions. While you’re talking to the team, one of our advocates will be showing your child(ren) around the Child Advocacy Center. They will get to see the room where they will be talking and have a snack. If they have questions or worries, they can ask their advocate anything.

What Services are Offered at the Child Advocacy Center?

A prompt, interagency response to give knowledge and clarify the child’s experience of their abuse. Recognizing that no one agency alone can provide adequate services for children suspected of abuse, the multidisciplinary team works to investigate child abuse cases across Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties.

A medical exam is offered to any child who has allegations or concerns of abuse. The Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center has a medical team on staff and is available to perform specialized medical evaluations on site in a child friendly, non-threatening environment. Overseen by a Pediatrician with specialized training in child abuse medical evaluations, Sexual Assault Pediatric Nurse Examiners perform the exams.

Purpose of Exam

The purpose of the exam is to collect evidence and document trauma if present (especially in acute cases). The exam is also used to assess for and treat sexually transmitted infections, injuries, and pregnancy. Most importantly, it is performed to reassure the child and family that his/her body is okay.

What to Expect

The medical exam will take place at the CAC in a child friendly room. The exam will include a medical history from the caregiver as well as from the child. The child will receive a thorough head to toe exam similar to a normal check-up at a Pediatrician’s office. This exam will also include an external inspection of the genitalia and anal area to make sure they appear normal. It is highly unusual for a preadolescent child to require an internal vaginal or rectal examination. It is important to understand that the child’s medical exam is different and less invasive than an adult pelvic examination.

A special instrument called a colposcope is used during the examination. A colposcope is a piece of specialized equipment that has a light attached to a pair of binoculars. This allows the practitioner to see a child’s genital and anal areas more closely. The colposcope never touches the child’s body and is never felt by the child. The colposcope has a camera attached to it and photographs may be taken during the exam to provide an accurate record of what the child’s body looks like at the time of the examination. While the colposcope does not touch the child, the nurse will have to touch the genital and anal areas with her hands. Some children will be checked for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy based on the clinic’s protocol.

For most children, the check-up is not painful. Nevertheless, children may feel worried, embarrassed, or uncomfortable about their exam. It is normal for children to feel anxious about their examination. The practitioner will take as much time as necessary to help children throughout the medical evaluation by explaining each step of the check-up and finding ways to put the child at ease.

Children between the age of 2 and 18 who have experienced a trauma may be referred for therapy. In addition, siblings of those children and non-offending caregivers are eligible for services. Several types of therapy are offered, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and group therapy.

What to Expect

Therapy is a unique opportunity for a child to meet with a trained professional who is willing and able to work to establish goals for treatment and to develop a pathway toward achieving those goals. For children who are coming to therapy with a history of physical or sexual abuse, this process also uses research-based treatment that has been proven to be effective in coping with trauma. Occasionally, a child may leave a session feeling temporarily worse before realizing the full healing effect. Therapy relies on the child’s willingness to be open and to participate in the process, and the family should feel welcome to voice any concerns, discomfort, and scheduling issues with the therapist.

Caregivers and children coming to therapy for the first time will complete some introductory assessments about the child’s behaviors. This helps the therapists to focus therapy on the child’s biggest concerns. After completing the assessments, the caregivers and child meet and complete the paperwork necessary to begin therapy. The meeting allows the caregiver and child a chance to tell the therapist what brings them to therapy and what they would like specifically to work on in sessions. Following the intake session, the therapist will usually schedule weekly appointments with the child with the goal of eventually decreasing the number of sessions as the child improves.

Parents and guardians will be asked to participate in the majority of a child’s sessions in order to add to the child’s sense of support in the healing process. Participation and support are a vital aspect of therapy at the Child Advocacy Center. This may involve participation in sessions with or without the child, availability in our lobby during sessions for consultation as needed and requesting meeting with the therapist as needed.

Children younger than 14: Parents and guardians may feel free to telephone or ask the therapist in person about any questions or concerns regarding the child’s treatment.

Children 14 and older: Participation, questions, and concerns on the part of the parents or guardians are subject to the confidentiality rights of the child. By law, a child aged 14 or older may choose to share or limit access to personal treatment information.

Evidence-Based Treatment Models at the CAC

Several types of therapy are offered, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and group therapy. TF-CBT is a treatment focused on helping children recognize how some of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have been shaped by their trauma. TF-CBT helps children to cope with and change those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Group therapy is an opportunity for children who have experienced trauma to meet, share their stories, and receive support and education together. The therapists using these therapies have been specially trained in these techniques.

Family Advocacy services are provided to the parents and guardians of children who participate in forensic interviews, although other caregivers may be referred to the program as well. These services are designed to give support and education to caregivers in a one-on-one setting or through support groups.

Caregiver interviews are conducted by the family advocate with the caregivers while their child is being forensically interviewed. The interview explores the abuse-related needs of the caregivers, provides education on the investigation process, and provides general reassurance and support. After the interview, the family advocate follows up with the caregivers for up to several months or for the duration of the case to assist with any additional services and referrals the family may need. A caregiver may ask for a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meeting with the family advocate for individual services, guiding them through the child abuse system.

A caregiver may also choose to take part in a 6-8-week group called PROTECT. The group is designed to provide information and support to families whose children have received services at the center.

Children and families found to be at high-risk for abuse and exploitation can receive continuous care coordination and support. Case Managers may accompany families to court proceedings and provide a higher level of care than the Family Advocate.

Forensic services are provided to children who may have experienced abuse or who have witnessed a crime or other violent act. The primary aim of forensic services is to aid in ensuring the safety of the individual child as well as other children in the community. Forensic services are provided in a safe and child-friendly environment.

Forensic Interview

A forensic interview is a single session, recorded interview designed to gain a child’s unique information when there are concerns of possible abuse or when the child has witnessed violence against another person. The forensic interview is conducted in a supportive and non-leading manner by a professional trained in the National Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interview model. Interviews are remotely observed by representatives of the agencies involved in the investigation (such as law enforcement and child protective services).

Extended Forensic Interview

An extended forensic interview is a multi-session interview conducted by professionals trained in the National Child Advocacy Center’s Extended Forensic Interview model. Extended forensic interviews are conducted with children currently involved in a criminal or child protection investigation who may have trouble relaying their information during a single interview session.

Our Multidisciplinary Advisory Board works to provide strategic leadership, ensure abundant resources, and provide oversight to achieve the mission of the Child Advocacy Center.

  • Ms. Edna Kayes, Allegany County Commissioner of Social Services
  • Dave Chambers, Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center
  • Chief Dustin Burch, Cuba Police Department
  • Dr. Robert Anderson, Allegany County Community Services Director
  • Chief Timothy O’Grady, Wellsville Police Department
  • Mr. Robert Starks, Allegany County Probations Department
  • Mr. Keith Slep, Allegany County District Attorney
  • Mr. Clark Parry, Cattaraugus County District Attorney Office
  • Mr. Anthony Turano, Cattaraugus County Commissioner of Social Services
  • Under-Sheriff Eric Butler, Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mr. Michael R. Sharbaugh, Cattaraugus County Probation Director
  • Ms. Mary H. O’Leary, Cattaraugus County Community Services Director
  • Mr. Mason Maynard, Connecting Communities in Action

If you have any questions about the Child Advocacy Center, feel free to call us at (716) 372-8532.

Frequently Asked Questions

You might tell your child: “We are going to the Child Advocacy Center. It is a special place where kids go to talk about important stuff. The person you will be talking to talks to lots of kids about what might have happened to them. It is okay to tell them everything. You are not in any trouble.” Reassuring your child that they are not alone and that the Child Advocacy Center is a safe place is important.

A child forensic interview is a child-focused, neutral fact-finding conversation taking into consideration a child’s developmental stage. The interview is designed to elicit the child’s detail of the alleged crime so that there can be a coordinated and efficient investigation and prosecution process as well as offering mental health connection to assure the best possible road to healing. A child forensic interview is legally sound because it ensures objectivity employs non-leading techniques and emphasizes careful documentation of the interview.

Most importantly, let your child know that they are NOT in any trouble. Assure your child that the Children’s Advocacy Center is a safe place to talk and that everyone there is here to help. Do not repeatedly question your child about the abuse. If your child brings it up, listen without commenting or questioning and take note of what they say. Do not have your child practice what to say.

Interviews are observed live via closed-circuit technology in a separate room by representatives of the MDT comprised of law enforcement, Child Protective Workers, Allegany or Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s office and other partner agencies. The MDT response is based upon the best practice model of providing a coordinated team response to child victims of abuse and their families. Interviews are recorded so your child can tell their story once and not have to repeat and be retraumatized.

No. Only professionals directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This is done to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child and to provide a neutral setting for the child and the investigation. Most of us working at the Child Advocacy Center are parents just like you. We understand how being in the same room with our child may influence what the child says or doesn’t say. If our child doesn’t answer quickly enough, we may answer for them. Whenever we have made exceptions to the rule, it just doesn’t work. It’s hard for us as moms and dads to sit quietly or not influence the interview with a concerned look or an emotional reaction.

Parents are also not allowed in the observation room during their child’s interview. To ensure confidentiality, only professionals are allowed in the observation room. All of the interviews at the Child Advocacy Center are recorded to minimize the number of times your child will have to talk about what happened. The recording of the interview is turned over to law enforcement as part of evidence in a potential criminal case.

Your child will be talking to one of our trained forensic interviewers. They have attended basic and advanced training on how to talk to children about difficult subjects. It’s important that any details about the

alleged abuse be coming from the child. Our interviewers are trained to not ask suggestive questions and to move at a pace that is comfortable for your child. They never force a child to talk to them.

We also offer extended forensic interviews, which allows the child to come back over several visits to talk to our interviewer. The same questioning strategies are used as in a regular interview, but we recognize that some children need more time to feel safe and comfortable with this environment and with us. So, we just slow the whole process down for them, but we’re not asking them the same questions over and over. If you think your child might benefit from this extended model, be sure to let us know.

You will be meeting with your child advocate. They want to answer any questions you have. If they don’t know the answer, it is their job to find out. They will listen to your worries and concerns and provide resources to help you through a difficult time. Our advocates are not therapists, but they can listen and get you the help you need.

Your other children are welcome to play in our play area so you can talk privately to your advocate. Our staff assistant or one of our interns will keep an eye on them. Before they find our snacks, be sure to let us know if your child(ren) has any food allergies or diet restrictions.

You will be able to talk to members of the investigation team. They will tell you in general terms what they learned from the interview. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns. Remember, your child’s interview is just the first step in the investigative process. There may be other witnesses that need to be interviewed.

There may be physical evidence that needs to be photographed or collected. The alleged offender will be interviewed.  So, at this point in the process it’s often difficult to predict what will happen.

All of the information will be turned over to the county attorney who will decide whether or not to prosecute. Your advocate will keep in regular contact to let you know what is happening on the case. If you have questions at any point during the investigation or prosecution of your child’s case, please feel free to contact your advocate.

Parents and children are often worried about whether they will have to testify in court. It’s really way too early to know. If this happens, our advocate will be with you every step of the way and will even provide a special Court School to help your child feel more comfortable.

Based on the allegation or the interview, the members of the investigative team may decide a medical evaluation is needed. For many children, knowing their bodies are okay is a huge relief and if seeing one of our medical providers will make them less worried or anxious then be sure to let us know. That is always an option.

We have two nurses with specialized training in child abuse who conduct the medical evaluations at the Child Advocacy Center. They will want to spend some time with you to collect important medical history, but they will also want to talk to your child one-on-one to answer any of their questions. When it comes time for the actual medical evaluation, our nurse and your child’s advocate will accompany your child to our exam room.

The nurses work under our Medical Director, Dr. John Coyne who has over 25 years of expertise in child abuse examinations, who will review your child’s case and make recommendation based on the findings.

Our nurses will complete a full head-to-toe exam of your child just like when you go to your child’s pediatrician. Our medical providers use a tool to help them see the genital area more clearly. This tool is called a colposcope and it is a magnification device with a camera. The medical provider can take a picture of what they are seeing. If they need a second opinion, your child doesn’t have to have another exam. They can consult with our Medical Director utilizing the photographs taken during the evaluation. Additionally, the photos can be used in court to help the prosecution prove your child’s case.

When the medical evaluation is over, the medical provider will be able to tell you what he or she has learned. It’s important to realize that in at least 95% of all cases of child sexual abuse there are no medical findings, and the medical provider can help explain this to you more fully.

Some children do and some don’t. Every child is unique in how they cope. Some may not need counseling now, but will need counseling down the road. Maybe you need counseling more than your child to help you cope with everything that has happened. Your advocate will listen and provide referral information.

What we do know is that children who are believed and protected from continued abuse are able to do quite well. It is very important to your child’s recovery that you work with a therapist specifically trained and experienced in trauma and abuse. This is a field with special expertise.

In most instances, it is important to provide your child with an opportunity to talk with a professional. Too often parents just want their child to “forget” about the abuse and “move on.” That’s easier said than done. Counseling can help your child and family through this very difficult time. It’s best to address issues and concerns now, rather than years later. We have therapists available at the Child Advocacy Center or we can also provide you with referrals to therapists in the community. Just let us know.

Yes, the Child Advocacy Center supports the entire family during this stressful time. Parents and siblings often feel guilt or shame for what has happened to their loved-one. It is important to recognize that abuse can impact everyone who cares for the victim.

Parent education and counseling are available through the Child Advocacy Center. Our mental health therapist is trained to work with children and families who have experienced trauma due to abuse. Sometimes, parents of abused children remember their own past abuse, and this can retrigger negative feelings. It is important to seek help for not only your child but all those who may be affected by the abuse.

Your advocate is not only available to support your child but is also there to support your entire family. Advocates sometimes help with education, information, and referrals to services that your family may benefit from, assist with claims to the Office of Victim Services, and be a listening ear.

All services at the Child Advocacy Center are free to families. The Child Advocacy Center operates on grants from the New York State of Children and Family Services and the New York State Office of Victims Services.

If you experience any expenses outside of the Child Advocacy Center based on your child’s abuse, your advocate will work with you to complete a claim to the New York State Office of Victim Services (NYSOVS) .  NYOVS provides a safety net if you have no other way to pay for these costs – including but not limited to your child’s medical bills, counseling expenses, and your lost wages – resulting from your child being the victim of a crime.

At times, the Child Advocacy Center receives donations or other grants that can help offset other costs to support families, including transportation costs to court or appointments, food and shelter, moving fees, school supplies, etc. Talk to your advocate if you need financial support during your child’s case. Please note, the Child Advocacy Center is the payer of last resort and your advocate will help you apply for benefits and services for long-term financial care.

Lack of transportation should not be a barrier to receiving services at the Child Advocacy Center. If you cannot find a way for you and your child to visit the Child Advocacy Center, we have several options to help. Gas cards, bus tokens, or taxi fare may be available by calling your advocate. Your advocate may also offer to pick you and your child up at your house and transport you to your appointment in one of our vehicles.

Additionally, the Child Advocacy Center has a Winnebago or a Child Advocacy Center on wheels that can come directly to your home or community where our forensic interviewer, advocate, mental health therapist, law enforcement agent, and child protective service representative can meet with you and your child.

Professional Development and Community Training

The Child Advocacy Center is proud to provide training to members of the community on identifying, reporting, and preventing child abuse. These training opportunities are scheduled multiple times throughout the year. The Child Advocacy Center is also available to come to your agency or group to provide training. To request a specific training for your group, please call us at 716-372-8532. Our trainings include:

  • Overview and Tour of the Child Advocacy Center: 45-60 minutes, no cost
    • Come visit the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center and learn how we operate. Call to schedule your tour.
  • Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children: 2 hours, no cost
  • Human Trafficking 101: 1.5 hours, no cost
  • Online Safety: 1 hours, no cost

Safe Harbour

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a global problem and one that impacts children in our own communities. The Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center is a member of Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties’ Safe Harbour Programs. We work with partners across our communities to promote awareness of youth trafficking and identify and provide comprehensive services to potential victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

CSEC is a form of Child Trafficking and refers to any person under the age of 18 who engages, agrees to engage in or offers to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for anything of value including money, food, shelter, clothing, education, or care.

Examples of CSEC include:

  • Child sex trafficking
  • Street prostitution
  • Gang based trafficking
  • Escort services/private parties
  • Internet based exploitation
  • Commercial production of child pornography
  • The online transmission of live video of a child engaged in sexual activity in exchange for anything of value

The Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center can serve children who are often homeless or living in unstable, unhealthy situations. Our program is making significant strides against youth trafficking and helping children survive unimaginable crimes. To learn more, please contact Dave Chambers at 716-372-8532.

If You Suspect Abuse: All of us are responsible for all children. If you suspect child abuse and/or neglect, please call the New York State Children Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720 or your nearest law enforcement agency immediately and report what you have seen. Your confidentiality will be respected.