By Erin Harper, Multi-Disciplinary Team Coordinator
The other day, I sat in CALICO’s observation room, watching a forensic interview. As I listened to the young girl disclose details of abuse, I also listened to the responses of the other professionals watching the interview. At CALICO, five professionals from different agencies worked to ensure her safety and meet her family’s needs. A police officer, district attorney, child welfare worker, family resource specialist and forensic interviewer all strategized about how to conduct an investigation that was both effective, so that the offender was held accountable, and sensitive, so that the victim’s and her family’s needs were met with care and compassion.
Following the interview, CALICO staff worked with the police officer to refer the girl for a medical exam at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. There, the young victim was seen by a pediatrician who specializes in treating victims of sexual abuse. In the weeks that followed, she returned to the hospital for regular sessions with a mental-health provider, one who was familiar with the details of her abuse and did not have to re-question the girl or her family about it. At the same time, as the criminal case progressed, a victim/witness consultant met with the family before each court date to explain the legal procedures and provide reassurance.
Over many months, this young victim met over a dozen professionals, each with a different skill and way to help, who were all working together to bring her justice and healing. This story is of just one girl but it represents the experiences of many girls and boys at CALICO. Across Alameda County, CALICO is privileged to know and bring together hundreds of police officers, child welfare workers, doctors, attorneys, and mental-health providers to help make children who have been abused healthy and whole again, and to make the community safer. These people comprise CALICO’s “Multi-Disciplinary Team,” or MDT.
The term “MDT” sounds like jargon, but CALICO’s MDT is crucial to the work we do. Responding to child abuse has so many different components and needs – prosecution of perpetrators, the investigation of a child’s safety in their home, examination of licensed facilities where the child was hurt, medical treatment, and mental-health interventions for both the child and family. A single agency can’t do this work alone. Without collaboration, more trauma may occur. Each day, a three- to five-member MDT meets at CALICO to address specific needs of each child brought to our office. Each month, a larger representation of the MDT meets twice to discuss policy issues and review specific cases to illustrate the extent to which each partner agency is following best practices. At both a case-level and an agency-level, CALICO’s MDT works cooperatively to make sure everything that needs to be done to respond to child abuse effectively is set in place. CALICO ensures everyone on our team understands their position, their teammates’ role, and the best strategy for working with one another. Together, the team makes extraordinary things happen for children every day and makes Alameda County a safer place.