The annual Crimes Against Children conference, hosted in Dallas by the local child advocacy center, is one of the largest child abuse prevention conferences in the country. This year, a record 4,200 people attended and CALICO was thrilled to include staff and a board member in this number. This immense conference brought together law enforcement officers, child protective service workers, child advocacy centers staff and other experts, as well as folks from the tech industry for4 days in early August. This year, Erin Harper (CACC State Director & Alameda County MDT Director), Bertha Nevarez (Child Interview Specialist/Program Manager) and Cathryn Weems (Board Member) all attended the conference to learn more about how we can continue to work together to keep kids safe and minimize ongoing trauma when bad things happen.
The conference kicked off with opening remarks from the host, local law enforcement representatives and sponsors. Attendees then heard from a survivor of child sexual abuse whose inspiring message of strength set the tone for the rest of the conference. Each day featured sessions on many topics including some moving case studies of how perpetrators were brought to justice. After a lively Tex Mex party on Wednesday, the conference wrapped up on Thursday. Even though the party was a crowd favorite, the CALICO delegation reported that the best part of conference was learning information that will directly impact their work.
Erin stated that she learned new information about different types of offenders, including psychopathic offenders, female offenders, offenders involved in child pornography cases, and offenders that target children in Southeast Asia. This knowledge helps improve investigative and interview techniques, but also gives a better understanding of the trauma the child endured and how they might be best placed on a path to justice and healing.
Bertha said she attended several case studies, as well as sessions on forensic interviewing techniques. A highlight was hearing from an interviewer with Homeland Security and a discussion involving the use of dolls in forensic interviews. Both, Erin and Betha, were impressed with seeing first-hand the tech community's involvement in fighting child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation online. They also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other professionals from a variety of disciplines and industries.
Cathryn spent time with fellow industry professionals from other internet companies discussing ways to more efficiently discover and report child sexual abuse on their platforms and learning more about resilience programs. She also spoke to a number of people from other child advocacy centers to learn about how other centers operate and gather exciting new fundraising ideas. Working in the child abuse world can lead to secondary trauma, but the highlight of the conference for Cathryn was hearing some mental health professionals talk about best practices for handling the content people see or hear in the course of their job. Having resilience programs is key in this industry, so that everyone can be as mentally healthy as possible and best serve the children that need us.
CALICO is committed to ensuring its staff stays informed about the latest trends and advances in child abuse prevention, intervention and treatment. Conferences like this give us the opportunity to not only stay informed but also connect with other professionals dedicated to keeping children safe.