You CAN Make a Difference:
How to support Child Abuse Network in its fight against child abuse and neglect
It’s no secret that the abuse and neglect of children is a daily occurrence in our community. Watch the news, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, and you’re likely to come across such a story. If you’ve ever wondered, “Is there anything I can do to help these children?” the answer is, “Yes!”
Thirty years ago, several local organizations partnered together to address child abuse in the Tulsa Area. Their efforts, initiated by Junior League of Tulsa and Dr. Robert Block, a pediatric child abuse specialist, resulted in Child Abuse Network, or CAN. Since then, CAN has served more than 40,000 children, and continues to serve abused or neglected children every day, seeing about 35-50 children in their Children’s Advocacy Center each week.
According to Maura Guten, CAN CEO, “There are three main areas of work in the child abuse spectrum: prevention, intervention and treatment. CAN serves as the first stop for children for intervention once abuse has been reported.” Because CAN is a network of partner agencies, abused and neglected children don’t have to worry about being passed around from agency to agency. Rather, they can meet with all the relevant agencies inside the warm and protective environment of CAN’s Children’s Advocacy Center, which includes design elements such as a “teddy bear waiting room” and eye-catching aquarium. Furthermore, through CAN, the partner agencies are better able to communicate with each other about what’s best for the child.
Services offered by CAN include forensic interviews, mental health consultations, and connecting clients with community resources. In a TulsaKids article published in May 2016, forensic interviewer David Glanz, LCSW, said that his favorite thing about his job is getting “to meet and talk to children and young adults every day about the fun things in their life and things not so fun (abuse).” He recalled the end of one interview with an 8-year-old girl who had “shared a particularly painful and damaging experience”: “She looked up at me with big eyes and a heartfelt smile and said, ‘Is it okay if we stay here and talk a little more, I like talking to you.’ I said ‘OK’ and we spent some more time talking and drew some flowers.”
In fiscal year 2018, CAN served 1,883 children. According to Guten, “Child abuse in Tulsa County is a big problem. There is desperate need for more prevention, intervention and treatment.” Thankfully, organizations like CAN are working to provide these very services—but they cannot do it without the help of financial donors and volunteers.
“What an individual can do is help in any way that they can—whether that is time, talent or treasure,” says Guten. “Get educated, learn how to identify abuse and report it. That’s the first step, and everyone can do that.”
When children come to the center, they often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back, so although some people might wonder how they can help address such a significant problem, there are several ways in which they can help, beginning with donating items like blankets, stuffed animals, backpacks, etc. Go to childabusenetwork.org/donate to see their current Wish List or to make a financial donation.
Volunteers at the Children’s Advocacy Center are always appreciated as well. Volunteers might help by playing with children, working on administrative projects, doing translation work, etc.; all volunteers go through background checks as well as training. Learn more about these opportunities at childabusenetwork.org/volunteer.
While 30 years is a big milestone, CAN has even bigger dreams for its future. In addition to continuing its mission of providing collaborative intervention services to child abuse victims and their families, CAN is considering expanding and improving the Children’s Advocacy Center and looking into strengthening partnerships with its participating agencies by inviting them to relocate onto the CAN campus. All of which will require more donations of time and energy.
One of CAN’s mottoes—and their plea to members of our community—is “Stop the Hurt. Begin the Healing.” If you are interested in “shining a beacon of light and hope” for the children who need it most, go to childabusenetwork.org.