Drive south down Federal Boulevard and you’ve likely seen the sign for the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center at 21st Avenue, but may not know what’s behind it. “As an advocacy center, we help children and their families where the children are dealing with child abuse, sexual abuse, trauma, and mental health issues” according to Michelle Davis, development director for the center.
In addition to their family counseling and educational services, one of their biggest roles has been to conduct interviews with children who have been victims of abuse or witnessed violent crime. They conduct recorded forensic interviews that can later be reviewed by police detectives, used in court or otherwise made available in criminal cases so children only have to recount their stories once and in a safe environment.
That program costs approximately $300,000/year according to Executive Director Gizane Indart. $250,000 of that was coming from the City and County of Denver through the Denver Police Department. When the COVID-19 crisis started earlier this year, the organization learned their funding was being suspended as the city and the police department reallocated funds.
Hollie Reinhart has been working with children for over a decade, conducting forensic interviews for the past five and believes in the role their organization plays.
“I think a lot of times we don’t have the opportunity to publicly talk about our work,” said Reinhart. “It’s something private for families. People don’t always know we’re here and have this service. In this current climate people can be hesitant to call the police. We work with law enforcement because police aren’t experts in child development. We help fill that gap.”
Reinhart explained most children find their way to the organization through referrals, which are down 30% in the past few months. While that may sound positive, it’s actually a large problem according to Reinhart, explaining that “The majority of referrals are coming from parents themselves” right now. Teachers, school nurses, and others in similar roles normally account for the majority of reports. With kids not being in school, at rec centers, libraries, and other public locations during the pandemic, abuse can become more invisible.
Davis said that while private foundation dollars have come forward to help in the short term, the program’s long term prospects are a concern and they are asking the North Denver community for help. Like most nonprofits, they’ve also been forced to cancel the standard dinner or wine and cheese in-person type fundraising events. They’re starting a new online fundraising drive. Those interested in reading about their programs or making a contribution should visit www.denvercac.org to learn more.