What would you wish for if a child you know is the victim of sexual abuse, internet crime, or is endangered by drug abuse at home?
- Would you wish for an immediate response from specially trained investigators?
- Would you want access to a specially trained and equipped medical provider?
- Would you hope the child did not have to keep telling what happened over and over to different people in different places?
- Would you need someone who could help you learn the best way to take care of the child victim you know?
- How about someone to explain the child protection or criminal justice systems; to tell you what will happen next?
- Would you want information and referrals for mental health care for the child victim and also for the caregivers?
That’s what the Montana Department of Justice wants, too. And it’s why we started the Montana Child Sexual Assault Response Team (MCSART) Program.
MCSART works with Montana communities to develop multidisciplinary teams (MDT) and Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) so each child victim in Montana is responded to by specially trained professionals with a child centered approach.
The MCSART Program, administered by Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), promotes successful prosecution of child abuse perpetrators and high quality response to child victims by providing coordinated community response resources for reports of crimes against children in Montana. An MDT investigative model uses improved evidence collection through forensic interview and forensic medical exam techniques, reduces contaminated evidence from multiple interviews, and also provides victim support to traumatized children and their non-offending caregivers. The core member agencies of an MDT are county prosecutors, law enforcement, medical, child protection and mental health.
Responding to a child victim requires specialized training and is different than responding to an adult victim. Skills for coordinated investigation of child abuse require training in child development, language aptitude, memory and memory retrieval, adult/child power differentials and even family dynamics. No single agency, individual or professional discipline has all the skills or resources necessary to effectively investigate and respond to child victims and their non-offending caregivers. The MCSART Program provides Montana communities with the training, equipment and ongoing technical assistance for best practice collaborated response to reports of crimes against children.