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Serving Children and Families Affected by Child Abuse: Canopy Child Advocacy Center Works in Partnership with County Agencies

by Deonna Kirkpatrick , Deputy Director for Communications, Department of Health and Human Services
Canopy Child Advocacy Center LogoYears of planning and collaboration came to fruition in November 2018 with the opening of the Canopy Child Advocacy Center. Canopy is a one-stop location where children and families impacted by child abuse can get a full range of services in a child-friendly and trauma-informed setting.

Within its first year, Canopy has served over 722 children and their families who have been impacted by child abuse. The initial referral criterion of children through 12 years of age who lived in the City of Cleveland for whom there is concern they have been sexually abused has already been expanded to include children of any age who live in Cuyahoga County that may have been a victim of human trafficking. As Canopy continues to build capacity, the referral criteria will also be expanded.

Every case is reviewed weekly by a multidisciplinary team of service providers and investigative entities involved with each child. To date, over 35 partners have signed Canopy’s memorandum of understanding. Partners meet regularly, enabling the team to wrap services around the child and their caregivers at a level that did not exist prior to Canopy. These services are supported by an enhanced level of communication between partners.

Canopy’s success to date is largely a result of the collaborative spirit of the partner organizations. Canopy partners with several Cuyahoga County and non-County agencies to provide services to families. The Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and 26 law enforcement jurisdictions provide referrals and partner together to complete forensic interviews of the children.

The Cleveland Division of Police was the first law enforcement agency to join with Canopy. The commitment that the Sex Crimes Unit has displayed in putting the victims first and expediting interventions has been remarkable. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office regularly observes forensic interviews when there is evidence of a crime and meets with families when preparing for trial at Canopy. When appropriate, they leverage everything provided to enhance prosecutions, including recorded interviews that have been consistently made available.

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center, and Frontline Services work to ensure that each child and family receives victim advocacy and mental health services within ten days from their arrival at Canopy. The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force see that any child or adolescent who has experienced human trafficking is able to access all the services at Canopy, and their commitment to work together to interview victims has resulted in interventions provided to 14 trafficked victims since June of 2019. Each of these entities actively participate in multidisciplinary team meetings and trainings that center around ways to support children.

Canopy also has strong partnerships with all three major hospital systems: Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Metrohealth Systems, and University Hospitals to ensure our kids receive a medical evaluation. The goal is to conduct some of those evaluations on site in the year 2020. Our courts work along the sidelines to address any court related needs our children and families may have. The Family Justice Center, and Witness Victim Service Center, and several other community partners also help advise us as the Canopy program grows.

“Canopy Child Advocacy Center has brought together many agencies within Cuyahoga County that are doing this valuable work to provide even greater opportunities to collaborate. Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services is a critical partner and we celebrate this first year by acknowledging the major contribution that they have made to envision a community where children are safe, and families are resilient. We look forward to continuing to support one another in this next year and many years to come,” said Jennifer Johnson, Director, Canopy Child Advocacy Center.

Canopy Child Advocacy Center is a collaboration between many entities, including:

• Brooklyn Police Department
• Case Western Reserve University
• Cleveland Clinic Foundation
• Cleveland Division of Police
• Cleveland Heights Police Department
• Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority
• Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
• Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
• Cuyahoga County Div. of Children and Family Services
• Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court
• Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court
• Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
• Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office
• Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force
• Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center*
• Euclid Police Department
• Family Justice Center
• Frontline Service
• Garfield Heights Police Department
• Gates Mills Police Department
• Glenwillow Police Department
• Hunting Valley Police Department
• Independence Police Department
• International Association of Forensic Nurses
• Mayfield Heights Police Department
• Middleburg Heights Police Department
• Moreland Hills Police Department
• Newburgh Heights Police Department
• North Olmstead Police Department
• North Royalton Police Department
• Oakwood Village Police Department
• Olmstead Township Police Department
• Parma Police Department
• Parma Heights Police Department
• Shaker heights Police Department
• Solon Police Department
• South Euclid Police Department
• Strongsville Police Department
• The MetroHealth Systems
• United Way of Greater Cleveland
• University Hospitals
• Witness Victim Service Center

*Serves as fiscal agent and legal entity

For more information contact Jennifer Johnson, Director of the Canopy Child Advocacy Center at 216-229-2420 ext. 250 or jjohnson@dvcac.org, or visit http://www.canopycac.org/.

Please contact the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (CCDCFS) at 216-696-KIDS (5437) if you have concerns about the abuse and neglect of a child.