PORTAGE | The Portage Exchange Club welcomed Angie Marsh, director of the Dunebrook Child Advocacy Center, as its speaker for the September 25 breakfast meeting. Dunebrook is a not-for-profit organization located in Michigan City whose mission is to advocate for children and to provide positive family support and education.
Marsh told the club that Dunebrook is going into its 25th year. It started with concerned citizens who saw a need for an organization to oversee child abuse prevention and to help prevent children who report abuse from being re-victimized by the legal system.
Marsh is a trained forensic interviewer. When a report of child abuse comes to either law enforcement or child services, the child is brought to Dunebrook as soon as possible for the interview.
“Many children are afraid of talking to the police, and being at a police station can be very intimidating. I can honestly tell the children I am not a police officer. I have a small room with two chairs and an easel with a white board. It’s very non-threatening,” Marsh said. “I’ve been trained to ask non-leading questions, so that the interview will hold up in court. The interview is recorded, and I have a team in the next room consisting of people in law enforcement and child services and sometimes a prosecutor, if one is available. I try to get a lot of information around the event. Often it’s the child’s testimony against the adult’s, and I want to give the investigators the best chance of tripping up the suspect. I wear an ear bud, so they can suggest questions if I don’t think to ask a particular one.
“We also deal with the ‘back-in’ process after the child has reported the abuse. WE have a cognitive behavior specialist to deal with the child’s trauma, and we often have to contact a pediatric SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner). We try to get the child help very quickly.”
Dunebrook provides several programs other than the advocacy program. A few of them are:
Healthy Families - providing parenting information through home visits for families with children prenatal to three years of age.
Community Partners for Safe Families - a voluntary program funded by the Department of Child Services. It also provides home visits for families with children 0 – 18 years old, working with parents to improve parenting skills and reduce stress.
Body Safety - a program provided to elementary schools that teaches children about good and bad touch and empowers them to protect themselves.
For further information on the organization, there is a website: www.dunebrook.org. They can also be found on Facebook.
There are several ways to help the work of Dunebrook. Marsh suggested that everyone spread the word about the organization.
“If you know of a family that can use our services, refer them! We also need funding and volunteers. Exchange Clubs have been great supporters of our efforts.”