From Highlands

Luzed Cruz, Children’s Advocacy Center manager, at left, and Rasheeda Moorer, CAC therapist join Rep. Greg Steube at the Annual National Leadership Conference.

The National Children’s Alliance (NCA) is the associating and accrediting body for Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs). NCA hosts the Annual National Leadership Conference for multidisciplinary professionals who serve as a voice for abused children to provide support, promote, connect, inspire and increase public awareness of the Children’s Advocacy Center movement. NCA provides funding opportunities via the VOCA and VOCAA grant funds to support local efforts.

This year, Luzed Cruz, Highlands County Children’s Advocacy Center manager, and Rasheeda Moorer, CAC therapist, were able to attend, due in part to grant funding received by the NCA.

This year’s conference highlighted the survivor-led awareness #SHINE campaign, which was created to transform the conversation around child sexual abuse and build a universe of support for survivors.

There was a screening, followed by a Q&A session, of the movie “Cracked Up” with Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond and filmmaker Michelle Esrick. Hammond used this film to tell his story about moving from the stigma and shame of abuse to hope and resilience. Stories like Hammond’s and so many other survivors need to be told to change the conversation about child abuse.

Some of the workshops throughout the week included trauma informed care, collaboration with faith leaders, implementing telehealth, providing services in rural areas, and managing compassion fatigue.

On Tuesday, the conference attendees participated in Capitol Hill Day visits. Members of the Florida Network of CACs and the local CAC staff members Luzed Cruz and Rasheeda Moorer were able to make pre-arranged constituent visits with Congressman Greg Steube who represents the 17th District of Florida (which includes Highlands County) and Emily Lucas of Senator Rick Scott’s office. The visits provided an opportunity to educate about national, regional, statewide and local CAC initiatives.

Cruz was able to highlight the importance that continued or increased funding of CAPTA, VOCA, and VOCAA would have on our local community efforts. The NCA reports over 1,000 kids are being served each day by CACs across the nation. Staff was pleased by the response of the Congressional leaders and look forward to continuing to share the great work that is coming out of this community.

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Highlands County leads the Multidisciplinary (MDT) approach to the response of child abuse investigations in Highlands County. Joined by a multitude of agencies both co-located at the center and by partnership, organizations have committed to work together, share information, and provide a holistic approach to healing for child victims and their non-offending caregivers.

The CAC is a child-friendly facility which affords every child served the ability to feel safe and cared for. Recently, the CAC has grown its services by adding additional family advocates, licensed mental health clinicians, and child sexual abuse prevention training via Darkness to Light. The MDT will continue to work together to enhance services in Highlands County and support all efforts to strengthen community norms, improve outcomes for abused children, and work towards the prevention of all child abuse.

For questions, tours, or potential training opportunities, reach out Cruz at cacmanager@hcbcc.org.

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