On April 1, All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center will be one of many agencies to be part of Save Jane, an awareness event that sheds light on the horrendous number of child abuse cases in our community – and the behind-the-scenes work that goes on every day to assist victims of child abuse.

According to the City of Albuquerque’s data, 14,000 children were reported abused in Bernalillo County in 2019 alone — a staggering number of victims that often goes unserved or underserved.

We can all agree that there shouldn’t be a single child who has to experience hardship and pain — let alone nearly a tenth of child residents of our county.

It is appropriate and necessary to ask ourselves how this can happen on our watch, how so many children show up on the authorities’ radar – and how we can prevent this from happening in the future.

At All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center, we are first responders in cases of child abuse as we open our doors to every child brought to us by police. They’re transported from crime scenes and they come to disclose about violent crimes in which they’re the victims — they come in pain and tears. 

Inside the Children’s Safehouse, our forensic interview program, we conduct interviews so they can disclose what happened to them and what they’ve witnessed. These interviews are video recorded and become part of the criminal investigation process so that these young victims won’t be forced to repeat their story to all who are involved in the investigation – and most important, following the interview, they can step on the path of healing.

A Child Advocacy Center is not just a forensic interview program, but also provides follow-up care for the child and family members who have been affected by the crime. Mothers, who need assistance with food and shelter, grandmothers who need to understand the system, aunts who take on caring for the child – whatever the (new) family unit is, we’re there to assist and advocate for them. 

Through our 60+ year history working with issues of abuse and trauma, we understand that a comprehensive approach to the problem is the only approach that can affect lasting change. Child abuse and neglect is often a symptom of families struggling with more than meets the eye. 

The change begins on this immediate level and continues as the child and family attend therapy and receive case management and home visiting supports. Healing from trauma is never linear but it can happen – the brain plasticity of our young clients allows for trauma to be overcome so that down the road they have a chance to lead a normal life.

The real key is the timeliness of intervention and the ability to support the family as a whole. No change can take place if we separate the child from his or her environment – and no change is going to happen if the needs of the family are not addressed. Often, the adults in the family need therapy themselves and will usually need support services that involve more than just our own programs, but referrals to other non-profits.

So you might ask, what is it that you can do? You do need to be aware of the depth and the breadth of the problem – the numbers are staggering but so is the fact that there are only a few behavioral health and social work agencies that work as first responders for the 14,000 children.

I am asking you that you add your voice to our mission and support us financially so that your donation can enhance outcomes. Only together will we ever be able to change these sad statistics and paint a brighter future for the children of our communities here, in New Mexico.

We hope to see you on April 1st on Civic Plaza.

Krisztina Ford