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Liz Roberts and Michael Polenberg Testify Before City Council’s General Welfare Committee Hearing on Child Abuse

liz-roberts-michael-polenbergBy Liz Roberts and Michael Polenberg
November 3, 2016

Safe Horizon is proud to partner with the New York City Council to help ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable populations. Our latest such opportunity came on October 31, 2016 when the City Council’s Committee on General Welfare held an oversight hearing to examine the many ways in which city agencies come into contact with child victims of abuse. The hearing was held in the aftermath of the tragic death of six-year-old Zymere Perkins.

As Safe Horizon’s Deputy CEO and Chief Program Officer and Vice President of Government Affairs, we were both called upon to testify before the Committee to explain the important role Safe Horizon’s Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) play in the City’s response to child abuse. In addition to Safe Horizon, the Committee heard from high-ranking officials from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV). The Committee also heard from union officials, child protective caseworkers, and advocates.

Child Advocacy Center

We explained the CAC’s approach that is designed to reduce the re-traumatization of children who are disclosing abuse. By housing all of the necessary partners under one roof, CACs minimize the number of times children must recount stories of pain and provide support and care to child victims and impacted family members. Located throughout the five boroughs of New York City, each Safe Horizon CAC brings together a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of experts comprised of detectives from NYPD’s Child Abuse Squad; Special Victims Unit; Child Protective Specialists from ACS; prosecutors from each county’s District Attorney’s Office and from the New York City Law Department; physicians with expertise in child abuse from premiere hospitals, and Safe Horizon counselors and forensic specialists.

Safe Horizon’s Child Advocacy Centers are child-friendly and welcoming programs, aglow with vibrant colors. The MDT works in close partnership to investigate and respond to the city’s most serious cases of child abuse and, where warranted, hold offenders accountable for their actions.

In addition to discussing the benefits of a coordinated response to child abuse and the specific role Safe Horizon plays in the CACs, we offered recommendations for how to create a stronger safety net for vulnerable children, including increasing the availability of medical coverage at the CACs and increased coordination in child abuse cases that do not lead to an arrest or arraignment.

With CACs located in every borough, child abuse remains a critical issue at the heart of Safe Horizon’s mission. The City Council hearing provided an opportunity to speak on behalf of all child victims of abuse and call for improvements that will lead to more healing for children and families affected.

  • Liz Roberts

    Liz Roberts is deputy CEO and chief program officer at Safe Horizon. Liz joined Safe Horizon in 2010 and provides expertise in domestic violence services across the entire organization. She was previously with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services as director of domestic violence policy and planning, assistant commissioner for child and family health, and deputy commissioner for family support services.

  • Michael Polenberg

    Michael Polenberg is vice president of government affairs at Safe Horizon. He responsible for directing the agency's legislative and budget advocacy on both the state and local levels. Michael draws on his twenty years of advocacy work in New York to ensure that our laws explicitly help victims of crime find safety and begin to heal. He also fights for millions of dollars in public funding to sustain programs helping victims of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault.

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