BATON ROUGE — Many children experience childhood trauma and adverse experiences at some point.
The Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center (BRCAC) is one of the few, if not only, organizations providing immediate interventions for children exposed to traumatic events in the Capital Region.
BRCAC opened its doors in 2002. It serves East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, and Iberville Parishes. The organization’s mission is to help children and their families heal by providing trauma-informed, child-focused services in the aftermath of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or violent crime.
“We work towards enhancing safety and justice for that child,” said Maria-Elena Allgood, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical director at BRCAC. “That involves several different services.”
“Before a CAC, children would be investigated at the crime scene or brought to the (police) station, where hypothetically, their abuser might be interrogated in the next room,” she added. “So, for any trauma survivor, you can imagine how difficult and traumatizing that would be. Now imagine a child on top of it. We try to mitigate that and limit the possibility of re-victimization and re-traumatization.”
Allgood said CAC’S services begin with a forensic interview or advocacy intake. Law enforcement or DCFS schedules those interviews. She said it serves as a trauma-informed, child-centered way to support the investigative process. It helps to eliminate the possibility of re-victimization or re-traumatization.
During the forensic interview process, the child’s caregiver will meet with BRCAC’s victim support advocates, highly-trained professionals who work with the caregiver to understand what is needed to support the family.
“I like to view them as the master key to many of the coordinated services,” Allgood said.
The center provides individual, family, and group therapy services. The center has a team of professionals that meet weekly to respond to child abuse reports. The community of professionals, called the Multi-Disciplinary Team,” collaborates in a team approach.
The team includes law enforcement, DCFS, prosecutors, and medical professionals.
“I consider myself fortunate and blessed to work with so many amazing people. I’ve learned more things than I can count,” Allgood declared. “I’ve learned so much from being here. Some of the eye-opening things are how resilient children can be and how resilient families can be, especially when they have the appropriate services.”
BRCAC’s work has many less-than-ideal situations to deal with, but Allgood said it’s worth it to help pursue safety, healing, and justice for all children and their families.
“I won’t sugarcoat it. We hear some unimaginable things, but I am so honored to say I have witnessed the strength and resilience of the smallest children in the world that, like where you hear, ‘Oh, you hear these stories, how could this happen?’ You can’t imagine what this must feel like for this child,” she said. “To see them go from this devastating incident to winning the most awards out of all the children in the first grade, going from all F’s to winning all the awards and straight A’s. Seeing those success stories that’s the point, and that’s the why. I came into this work believing that it’s possible. But seeing and witnessing it is a totally different and eye-opening thing.”
Looking for ways to help? visit batonrougecac.org to find out how.