April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, said Ginger Cangelosi, and Child Advocacy Services hopes to raise both awareness and funds with the fifth annual Blue Run, scheduled for 7 a.m. April 11 at Gonzales City Hall, 120 S. Irma Blvd.
The event includes a 1-mile Fun Run and a 5K race, both starting at City Hall, Cangelosi said, and proceeds will benefit programs provided by Child Advocacy Services, a nonprofit agency that supports Court Appointed Special Advocates program, Children’s Advocacy Center, along with clinical services and prevention education for children and families in 10 Southeast Louisiana parishes including Ascension, Assumption, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John and Tangipahoa parishes.
“The first year, the run was in Hammond, and we have people participating from all over,” Cangelosi said. “We had lots of requests to move it to Ascension, because it’s more centrally located (to the service area), so we did, and we’ve had it in Gonzales ever since.”
One of the services CAS provides is forensic interviews for physical and sexual abuse cases, Cangelosi said, which significantly reduce the impact of abuse on the victims.
Ashleigh Fuller, forensic interviewer covering Ascension, St. James and the Felicianas, sees children just after they’ve told someone about an instance of abuse.
Her field is fairly new, she said, and was the answer to an interview process that added the trauma of retelling the story of abuse many times to a child already experiencing a traumatic event.
“I’m a neutral third-party for investigations started by the Department Children and Family Services and law enforcement,” Fuller said. “I interview the child in a developmentally sensitive and legally sound way. It’s audio and video-recorded, and supervised by the investigating party.”
That breaks down to open-ended questions that take into account children’s age and grasp of concepts like time and place, she said. Younger children can’t answer when and where questions as accurately, because time and place don’t exist in the same way to them yet.
The recording makes it more likely that the child would have to tell the story of the traumatic events as few times as possible. “Ideally, just twice,” she said, once when the child tells someone, and once for the forensic interview.
“Say a child tells a teacher. The teacher would take the child to the counselor, where the story would be repeated,” Fuller said. The principal would comes next, then the DCFS, then law enforcement.
Because the interview is recorded from start to finish, Fuller said, and the investigating parties are witnessing the interview from another room, the situation is more ideal both for the child and the investigators.
CAS also offers a class called Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children that teaches first responders, police, teachers and anyone else who wants to learn what to do when a child comes to them with a complaint.
The run is a light-hearted way to promote CAS in the community, Cangelosi said, and is already strongly supported by the agencies who use them frequently. “The 23rd Judicial District Bar Association has the biggest Blue Run team,” she said.
For all those who want to participate, registration will be open all this week, and will also be available the morning of the run.
The cost is $35 per person. Runners and walkers may register as individuals, or teams.
To register, or to learn more about CAS or view the Blue Run’s sponsors, visit www.childadv.net/blue-run.html.