To provide better access to critical abuse counseling services for the residents of rural communities, the Specialty Vehicle Division of Winnebago Industries has produced and delivered seven community outreach vehicles to New York State.
Funded through a partnership between the Office of Victim Services (OVS) and the state Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), the mobile childhood advocacy centers (CACs) will take child protective services into communities when travel proves difficult for families. Services are brought together when allegations of child abuse or maltreatment are made, in an effort to make the investigation process less traumatic for children. Beyond child protective services, other services available in the mobile units include law enforcement, advocacy and therapeutic resources.
“Child advocacy centers are a national model of child-protective and investigative best practices and OCFS is proud to bring mobile child advocacy centers to families in rural areas where gaining access to these services can be challenging,” said Sheila J. Poole, commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. “When children suffer the trauma of physical or sexual abuse, the CAC streamlines the investigative process and provides a coordinated, timely and effective response and puts children and families on a path to healing.”
The mobile CACs are equipped to conduct initial and ongoing forensic interviews, and psycho/social assessments in a child- and family-friendly setting and will meet children in their neighborhoods, thus eliminating the need for families to travel long distances to receive support.
“The Office of Victim Services continually seeks to improve access to services for victims of crime by embracing technology, innovation and collaboration to expand our reach,” said Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin. “Service providers and advocates in the field identified the need for mobile Child Advocacy Centers and this partnership between OVS and OCFS will help ensure that children who are victims of sexual or physical abuse can receive the services they need, regardless of where they live, which will help them on the path to recovery and healing.”
Built to meet Winnebago Industries commercial vehicles SuperStructure construction standards, each mobile unit features steel backing in the walls and ceiling, Thermo-Panel sidewalls, and interlocking joints for added durability. Each unit is fully equipped with a waiting area, a child-friendly interview room, an observation room, bathroom facilities, as well as iRecord forensic recording and observation equipment. The CACs are staffed with a multidisciplinary team of professionals from law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, Child Protective Services, family advocacy, medical and mental health providers, and staff from the child advocacy center.
“The team at Winnebago is honored to see our commercial shell vehicles used in the important work of supporting children and families through challenging times. It’s clear that for some families traveling to a fixed location to obtain services is not practical,” said Robert Kim, director of Winnebago Industries’ Specialty Vehicles Division. “We applaud the State of New York for innovating their outreach services beyond brick and mortar buildings by providing mobile solutions.”