Local law enforcement officials and child welfare and health professionals gathered today to sign an updated and improved version of the San Diego County ‘Child Victim-Witness Protocol.’
The agreement assists and protects children who have been the victim of a crime, or witnesses who may have been exposed to any kind of child abuse.
“Children who are victims or witnesses to a crime require special attention and it’s important that law enforcement has a protocol that guides us cooperatively in protecting them,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “Our goal is to get to the truth in child abuse cases and hold the abusers accountable. This protocol makes sure we’re all on the same page in law enforcement and the professionals in the community dealing with these issues.”
The first Child Victim-Witness Protocol in San Diego County was established in 1976 and was one of only three the United States. It was formalized in writing in 1990 and updated in 2000 and 2006. The 2012 edition, which will be signed May 9, has been further clarified for today’s realities.
“The San Diego Police Department is proud to be part of this collaborative effort to update the San Diego County Child Victim-Witness Protocol,” San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said.
“This improved protocol is evidence of the continued commitment by those in local law enforcement, child protection, medical and mental health, and the justice system to protect child abuse victims and witnesses. Together, we can prevent further abuse and ensure all children receive the most effective and appropriate protection and services possible.”
The San Diego County Child Victim-Witness Protocol is a collaborative effort by numerous local agencies including the County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, Health and Human Services Agency, and County Counsel’s Office.
“No single agency or discipline can effectively address child abuse alone,” said Charles Wilson, head of the Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Rady Children’s Hospital. “It is only through a coordinated effort, such as that envisioned in this protocol, that we can expect to both gain accurate facts and avoid unnecessary trauma for the children involved.”
Child welfare advocates across the county lauded the protocol as essential.
“Reducing trauma to children is a core principal of Child Welfare Services and this collaborative effort – coordinating interviews and investigations – minimizes additional trauma to child victims,” said County Child Welfare Services Director Debra Zanders-Willis.