DA’s Office participates in Race Against Child Abuse

Recently, several members of the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office participated in the 11th annual Amani Center Race Against Child Abuse.

“April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is extremely proud of the work we do each day to protect children from neglect and abuse,” said Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Amity Girt. “The Multnomah County Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Team (MDT) is a nationally-recognized team that provides high-level care and services to child victims and their families.”

SDDA Girt supervises the Multnomah County Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Team (MDT) and works with a team of six other individuals. The unit includes three deputy district attorneys, two support staff, one victim advocate and one district attorney investigator. Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Casalino is the head of the Family Services Unit for the District Attorney’s Office and manages the entire program.

“Our MDT has three primary functions: to prosecute felony crimes involving child victims, protect children through litigating dependency cases in juvenile court and coordinating child protection efforts and policies with our community partners to make, and keep, all children safe,” CDDA Casalino said.

“Participating in the Race Against Child Abuse allows us to recognize and support the important and necessary work that child advocacy centers, like the Amani Center in Columbia County, do to ensure the ongoing health and safety of children. Not only is it a fun event, but it brings together MDT partners from nearby counties, each with the same goal – to prevent child abuse,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell who is assigned to the Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Team.

The Race Against Child Abuse event held on April 13, 2019 was organized by the Amani Center, which is Columbia County’s local child abuse assessment center. The Amani Center is a non-profit organization created to assist Columbia County in responding to child abuse through child forensic interviewing and medical assessments, including the treatment of children (birth – 18 years) alleged to have been sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused, neglected and/or witnessed a violent crime including domestic violence.

The 2019 event had a record number of overall participants.

“This event was a great way to participate in a cause that I care deeply about in a new and different way than our typical day-to-day work in the office,” said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Amber Kinney, who is assigned to the Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Team. “It’s nice to join my fellow MCDA colleagues as well as many agency-partners to support Child Abuse Prevention and bring awareness to this important cause.  And as an added bonus, it didn’t rain – making this event even that much more fun!”

In Multnomah County, the local child abuse assessment center is CARES Northwest, which stands for Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services. CARES Northwest is a collaborative, community-based medical program for the assessment, treatment and prevention of child abuse. The organization provides a safe, child-friendly environment for the assessment of children for whom there are concerns of physical or sexual abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. Physical examinations and interviews are conducted in a comfortable environment to help children feel safe.

In 1989, the Oregon legislature enacted ORS 418.747, which required the District Attorney in each of Oregon’s 36 counties to establish a multi-disciplinary child abuse team to fit each county’s systems and workloads. The law required the district attorneys to specifically develop written protocols for the investigation of child abuse cases and for interviewing child abuse victims.

In November 1989, then District Attorney Michael Schrunk convened a policy group composed of Children’s Services Division, Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Juvenile Court, Gresham Police Department, CARES NW, local hospitals, area schools, and the Multnomah County Health Division to develop interim protocols for the operation of the Team.

In February 1990, the group completed the written protocols, and in March, 1990, the District Attorney appointed Chief Deputy Helen Smith Chairperson of the Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Team (MDT) and the first formal meeting was held.

“That team in 1989 laid down the groundwork for our successes today,” said CDDA Casalino. “We now have a variety of other responsibilities that include providing a forum for issues surrounding child abuse, providing training to community and system partners, as well as advising and consulting on child abuse legal issues.”