2019-05-15 / Front Page

Del. Co. BOS Approves Mobile Unit To Serve Child Victims

Multiple Supervisors Share Reservations
By Rosie Cunningham

A panel from multiple agencies discussed a mobile service center at the Delaware County Board of Supervisors meeting. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter A panel from multiple agencies discussed a mobile service center at the Delaware County Board of Supervisors meeting. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter DELHI - The Delaware County Board of Supervisors voted on a vehicle which is projected to serve child victims of physical or sexual abuse.

A task force comprised of various agencies representing the Delaware County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) attended the Delaware County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, May 8, urging the supervisors to approve and accept state funds to operate the mobile service center. Delaware County was one of six of New York’s rural counties to be awarded state funds in December for the establishment of a mobile CAC. Each county was awarded $250,000 for the purchase of a mobile unit, as well as $50,000 a year for three years for maintenance and operation costs.

The task force consists of employees from Delaware County Social Services, mental health services, the drug abuse counsel, two state troopers, Delaware County District Attorney John Hubbard, Executive Director of Delaware Opportunities Dr. Shelly Bartow, Stacey Osborn, the director of the Safe Against Violence program at Delaware Opportunities, as well as representatives from additional agencies.

Delaware County Commissioner of Social Services Dana Scuderi-Hunter introduced the Delaware County Department of Social Services Staff Development Coordinator Trish Tyrell, who outlined the process of how the mobile service center will be used and how it will serve the children in the county.

Scuderi-Hunter said since January of 2018, the “team” has met monthly regarding physical and sexual abuse of children in the county.

“We utilize this team to provide services and we were told that we have been awarded a custom-built mobile crisis unit to provide vital services to children and families at no extra cost to the county,” she said.

Tyrell discussed trauma and the impact it can have on children who are the county’s future adults.

She said that one of the most challenging things for a child who has been abused is sharing their story over and over again, and the mobile unit will streamline the interviewing process and be more efficient.

“One in four girls get abused in their lifetime, and one in six boys,” said Tyrell.

In 2018, 56 sexual abuse cases were handled in the county, said Tyrell, who added the number is not an “accurate” number because one case could involve multiple children and victims living in the same house.

Tyrell said there are more than 900 [mobile] units throughout the country.

Tyrell said currently, once a case of abuse is reported, a team is deployed and the victim and non-offending family members are picked up and transported to CACs in other counties - such as Chenango, Broome and Otsego. The use of a facility in another county is subject to availability and Delaware County residents are not a priority in those CACs. Tyrell added that it can take hours to transport the family and children and by the time the victims are situated, they may not want to share their stories or they may simply be too tired, in the case of young children.

Tyrell emphasized that the “gift” of the mobile unit will save resources and travel time.

“If we invest in the well-being of youth now, it will pay off later,” she said.

“If it helps one kid, then it has done its job,” said Andes Town Supervisor Bud Gladstone.

Colchester Supervisor Arthur Merril said he is concerned about discretion. He said pulling into a town with a 30-foot, white, unmarked RV is not anonymous and the entire community will know.

The CAC will have observation and waiting areas. Tyrell said the CAC will transport victims to locations and points near the homes of children of instances of abuse.

Tyrell said they have location points in mind, and although discretion is a concern, it is not more important than the wellbeing of a child.

Osborn emphasized that reducing trauma for the victims is the ultimate goal.

“I have reservations,” said Middletown Supervisor Carl Davis. “Interviewing kids on the back of a bus.”

Meredith Supervisor Jim Ellis said he wants to see something more permanent, not a “disposable unit.”

Bartow reiterated the mobile CAC “is a gift to us.”

County Attorney Amy Merklen said there is “no such thing” as free money. “This is not the answer,” she said. “Everyone is going to know.”

Scuderi-Hunter said the benefits outweigh the risks. “We’ll do whatever is necessary,” she said.

Amy Oblinski said she has been with the department of social services for 26 years and she has interviewed children in a mobile unit. She said it is better than taking and talking to the victims and families in a school or a police station. She added that their county vehicles are marked, therefore, not anonymous either.

“It’s meant to be a service for us to get to them when they can’t get to us,” Tyrell said.

“We have looked into every possible option for a permanent location,” said Hamden Supervisor Wayne Marshfield, who is the chair of the social services committee.

The board was asked to vote on accepting the funds - Supervisor Merrill voted “no” as did Deposit Supervisor Thomas Axtell, Harpersfield Supervisor Jim Eisel, Supervisor Davis, Tompkins Supervisor William Layton, Supervisor Ellis, Bovina Supervisor Tina Mole and Delhi Supervisor Mark Tuthill.

Despite multiple supervisors voting “no,” the resolution to accept the funding passed 2,903 to 1,765 weighted votes.

In other business, the board approved a public hearing for a pay increase for Delaware County District Attorney John Hubbard. If approved, Hubbard’s salary will increase to $200,400 per annum. If approved on May 22, the pay raise will go into effect after 45 days as it is subject to a referendum.

There will be a public hearing regarding the establishment of the Delaware County Public Defender’s office on May 22 at 12:45 p.m. at 111 Main Street in the board of supervisors’ room.

The board remembered and shared fond memories of former Franklin Supervisor Donald Smith, 82, who died on May 5.

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