The CAN Superhero Challenge is coming soon!

Rose Turner has devoted most of her working life to helping children. For the past 12 years, Rose has served the community through her work at the Child Abuse Network (CAN) in Tulsa, a non-profit that centralizes and coordinates the multiple agencies that investigate and prosecute child abuse. The CAN facility is a child-friendly place designed to provide multidisciplinary services to child abuse victims in a single location, so that children and their families are not re-traumatized by the many parts of an investigation. Currently, Rose is the interim director of CAN, and she spoke with us about CAN, her passion for helping children and her life.

TK: When did you first get involved with CAN and what initially brought you to this organization?

Rose: I first became involved with CAN when I was working with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) in child welfare. I was part of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) involved in investigating and staffing cases to determine the best outcome for a child. Becoming the managing director for CAN in 2005 was a smooth transition as I was already deeply involved in and committed to the MDT process.

TK: Over the years, what has motivated you to continue investing your time and effort into this organization?

Rose: One day I was having one of those days of back-to-back meetings, and I went through the waiting area where a little boy was working on a puzzle. I looked down and said, “Great job!” When I came back through after my meeting, he said, “Can you help me finish?” My first thought was that I didn’t have time, but then I sat down and helped him. He and his sister were being interviewed about physical abuse. He told me that his little sister was afraid to come here, but he told her there was nothing to be afraid of. She came out a little while later, skipping and smiling. Those things happen here on a daily basis. That’s why I do it every single day. My commitment to helping children and the passion that burns inside of me to make every effort to provide each child a safe and nurturing environment that will give him or her the best opportunity to flourish in this community is what spurs me on each and every day.

TK: Currently, you are the interim director of CAN and most recently you served as managing director. What do you do at CAN and what is your role in the organization?  

Rose:  As I serve in multiple roles within CAN currently, the big picture is to ensure that the solid foundation laid of excellent service to children and families involved in an investigation of child abuse and neglect continues. This varies greatly day to day. One moment I may be involved in a committee meeting regarding enhancement of services we offer; the next I could be conducting a forensic interview or mental health consult if other staff are not available to do so, or involved in determining repairs necessary for our facility.  It is a total scope of involvement with our staff and the children we serve to ensure that our center is a safe and child-friendly place within which a child can begin a path of healing.

TK: CAN’s role in the community has grown and evolved over the years. What changes have you seen at CAN and what are your hopes for CAN’s future?

Rose: Changes that have occurred over the years involve serving 50 children a week when this facility was initially built to serve 40 children a month; increased work and collaboration not only with the MDT members but with the wonderful therapeutic resources in the Tulsa community continue to grow and be enhanced. These collaborative partnerships and resources result in greater opportunities for children to remain safe and flourish.

TK: Is child abuse on the rise or decline in Oklahoma and Tulsa County? Please explain. 

Rose:  There has been a steady rise in the numbers of cases each year in Oklahoma and specifically Tulsa County that are being investigated. There are so many factors that influence this such as the economic struggles facing Oklahomans, substance abuse, mental health issues and lack of adequate resources to address these issues often result in a child becoming a victim of abuse. Technology is a wonderful thing, however this has opened up a whole new venue in which perpetrators can and do access children.

TK: What are the most important things our community can do to prevent child abuse?

Rose: Listen to children. Give them encouragement to talk about things or situations that make them uncomfortable. Help children identify safe adults they can talk to if they are ever uncomfortable or feel hurt or threatened. These basic steps could ensure safety for a child.

TK: The Superhero Challenge to benefit CAN is coming up on April 2. Tell me about that.

Rose: It’s a family-focused fundraiser that’s fun for everybody – we have hundreds of volunteers and last year we had over 750 kids. It also educates people about what CAN is. Last year we had a little girl come in on the Tuesday after she had participated in the Superhero Challenge on Sunday. She was being seen because of suspected third-party abuse. Her mom was dealing with a lot of emotions. She said, “Little did I know [after being at the Superhero Challenge and learning about CAN] that I would need these services.”

TK: Before you go, what are some fun facts about you. 

Rose: I’m originally from a small town in Iowa that only has two stoplights, so the big city of Tulsa required adjustment for me. I come from a family of five girls, raised by my mother as my father was killed in a car accident when I was young. Her overriding message to all of us girls was “it will all be okay” and that is how she taught us to approach life — reaching out to help people and realizing it will be okay no matter what.

TK: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?

Rose: I enjoy spending time with family members, golfing, working out, spending time outdoors and cooking, all of which my husband and I do together and laugh throughout. My husband and I have also been taking ballroom dance lessons over the past year and it has been enjoyable.

TK: What is your favorite thing about Tulsa?

Rose: The variety of things to do, the parks, the arts, the museums and all of the great restaurants.

TK: Do you have any other favorites—food, places, music, or even a season—that your life would not be the same without?

Rose:  Love Mexican and sushi restaurants along with Jazz music. Always love the springtime, gives so much hope for growth and moving forward. I say frequently to those I work with or encounter, “an attitude of gratitude” is what provides us with contentment in life. We are so blessed!

And, finally, I want to say that the staff and teams at CAN are the heroes every single day. And the kids are the superheros!