Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 132 | February 23, 2021
Conversations About Child Advocacy
Training Specialist at Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center
Hello and welcome to Difficult Conversations – Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Today, I am blessed to have as my guest and longtime friend, Tony DeVincenzo. He is here to talk about difficult conversations in child advocacy and child abuse. Currently, he is a Training Specialist with Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, where he provides training and technical assistance to child advocacy centers and child abuse multi-disciplinary teams throughout the Northeast Region of the United States. Tony has also presented workshops in a variety of topics related to child advocacy. Before working in the child advocacy field, Tony served 25 years in law enforcement in New Jersey, a majority of his career was spent as a Detective investigating crimes against children. After supervising the Sex Crimes/Child Endangerment Unit, and Internet Crimes Against Children, Unit, he retired from law enforcement in 2013 as a Lieutenant. He is also an adjunct faculty member at local colleges teaching courses related to Criminal Justice and Child Advocacy. As always, Dr. Orsini keeps his promise about two things, that you will feel inspired, and you will have learned valuable lessons to be a better and more compassionate communicator.
Tony tells us why he decided to enter the child abuse unit as a young police officer and why it remains such passion for him. We learn the one type of case that really affects him more than others. Tony takes us through the process of the child advocacy center, from when he gets the phone call of child abuse, to the process of the investigation, and the training of interviewing children and teens. Also, we learn about the different ways allegations are made. Dr. Orsini shares a funny story about something his son said to his teacher when he was little. Tony DeVincenzo makes a point of stating that child abuse is the one thing that spans every demographic. He shares an important piece of advice. Tony tells us 2 conversations that he has found difficult to have with families dealing with child abuse, and familiarizes us with the term “non-offending caregiver.” He also gives advice on the proper way to have conversations with family members and how the healing process can start. Find out all about the Northeast Children’s Advocacy Center and how you can get involved in your community. Did you know Tony has his own podcast too? It’s called NRCAC Team Talk Podcast, If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication.
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Tony DeVincenzo (1s):
The one thing I think that I always tell people is understand that you’re going into this conversation about to break news of probably like I said, the most horrific thing that has happened, you know, to this family, you are dropping a bomb right on this family. In this field and I don’t know, you know, this may be true of the medical profession too. It’s very easy for us because we’re dealing with tragedy all the time. It’s very easy to get callous. And then we just get focused on doing our job. I’m going to go in, I’m going to do my job. I’m going to tell them what the child said. I’m going to get the information that I need and I’m going to get out because I got it. Then I have to continue on with the next steps of our job.
Tony DeVincenzo (44s):
I think it’s just important to understand that you’re going in and talking to some people whose lives have literally been turned upside down in the last, you know, however many hours we’ve been involved in this investigation.
Welcome to Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini is a practicing physician and president and CEO of the Orsini way. As a frequent keynote speaker and author Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders how to navigate through the most difficult dialogues. Each week, you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better, this is the podcast for you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 45s):
Welcome to another episode of difficult conversations lessons I learned as an ICU physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, and I’ll be your host again this week. You know, I’ve been blessed to have so many great guests on this podcast, far beyond what I had ever imagined when I first started out. And from each one, I can honestly say that I’ve learned something. And after speaking with them, during our typical introduction phone call and then interviewing them for the podcast, I really feel like I’ve gotten to know each and every one of them on a personal basis and call many of them my friend. Well today is especially exciting because not only do we have a perfect topic for the podcast and the perfect guest, but I get to interview a very long time friend, Tony or Divo, as I knew him growing up, have known each other since we were 12 years old.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 35s):
We played on the same baseball team, now we both played on the same high school football championship team, and we’ve also kept close contact for years. So this is going to be a lot of fun, but also informative about a real important topic. And that is child abuse and child advocacy. Today my guest is Tony DeVincenzo. Tony is here to talk about difficult conversations and child advocacy, child abuse. He is currently a training specialist with the Northeast regional children’s advocacy center and that role, he provides training and technical assistance to child advocacy centers and child abuse, multidisciplinary teams throughout the Northeast region of the United States.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 18s):
Tony has also presented workshops on a variety of topics related to child advocacy at regional and national conferences. Before working in the child advocacy field. Tony had a 25 year career in law enforcement, in New Jersey. He began his career as a patrol officer with the Roselle police department, and then served as a detective with the Morris County prosecutor’s office. As a detective, Tony worked at a variety of units, including the child abuse unit and the major crimes unit, but spent the majority of his career investigating crimes against children. Tony retired from law enforcement in 2013 as a Lieutenant supervising the sex crimes, child endangerment unit, internet crimes against children and Megan’s law unit.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 4s):
In addition to his law enforcement career and his role in child advocacy Tony is an adjunct faculty member at local colleges, teaching courses related to criminal justice and child advocacy. Welcome Tony. It’s great seeing you again. Thanks for coming on.
Tony DeVincenzo (4m 21s):
It’s good to see you, Tony. Thanks for having me here.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 23s):
Last month. I guess you do your own podcast. And last month I was a guest on a yours, and that was a lot of fun and I’m glad you were able to reciprocate your so busy. So this is a topic that is really important and something that my audience I think is really going to learn a lot from. And I always promise them to inspire and that they’ll learn something valuable about communication. So this is perfect. I’m looking forward to asking a whole bunch of questions and this is going to be a really great podcast. So thanks again.
Tony DeVincenzo (4m 50s):
I appreciate you having me.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 53s):
From my experience. So you’ve been in this field for what, 30 years now, I guess it is. I hate to say it’s been that long,
Tony DeVincenzo (5m 2s):
But yeah me too, about that….
Dr. Anthony Orsini (5m 2s):
As I said in the introduction, we know each other, since we were 12 or a little league baseball high school football, first as local benchwarmers where we sat together on the bench and then we both got a chance to play. So it’s been a long time. And then we have mutual friends and we lived near each other. So it’s been great. I come from a family of police officers, almost everyone in my family’s a police officer, except for me. And even someone in my family, my brother did a little time in juvenile. I don’t think it was his best assignment. He, I think he liked it, but it wasn’t great, but you did it for a long time and that’s gotta be really hard. Isn’t it? I mean, the stuff that you saw, how were you able to identify that’s what you wanted to do and stick it out for that long?
Tony DeVincenzo (5m 48s):
Yeah. It was hard. Specifically being in the child abuse unit where I spent probably 13 of my 25 years in law enforcement, I spent in the child abuse unit for a County agency. We were investigating all types of child abuse cases, really in all cases involving crimes of a sexual nature, both with kids and adults. And to be honest with you, I got in it by happenstance. I wasn’t looking to go there in the beginning. A couple of friends of mine who were in the unit thought I’d be a good fit for it because you have the opportunity to do a lot of the things that you like to do in law enforcement, doing investigations, search warrants, interviewing suspects, things like that.
Tony DeVincenzo (6m 28s):
But what I found was when I got into the unit, it really just became a passion project. For me. It was a place where I found personally, probably I did the most gratifying work that I did in my entire law enforcement career.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (6m 42s):
There’s nothing more special than helping a child and giving them a second chance. But you must have seen some pretty horrific things. Is there anything particular that stands out or any type of crime that just made you go home and say, wow, that was a rough day.
Tony DeVincenzo (6m 57s):
Yeah, there was a lot, anytime you’re dealing with children and kids that have been hurt in whatever fashion that is, whether it would be child sexual abuse or physical abuse, those cases just tend to get to,you have been thinking about this question because you told me you were going to ask it. And it’s hard to pinpoint a specific case that really affected me more than others. There certainly are a bunch that are out there, but I would say, I think anytime that there was a death of a child, those are the ones that really hit home for me, as part of my job, we had to do death notifications. I had to go to autopsies and watch autopsies and collect evidence during autopsies.
Tony DeVincenzo (7m 37s):
And anytime you’re seeing a child that’s been killed or has died in whatever matter those cases. And I’m sure you, as well as anybody, those cases just tend to, to stick with you and they go home when you take those home. And however you decide to deal with them, there’s a personal issue. Yeah. Do I go home and have a glass of wine or a beer or whatever that may be, but yeah, there’s a lot of cases like that. And then I think anytime that you have to work with kids, a lot of those cases tended to get to me too. I was a forensic interviewer for a long time. So part of my job was interviewing kids about the abuse that happened to them. Just talking to those kids and asking them the questions and hearing the stories that they’re telling about what people had done to them.
Tony DeVincenzo (8m 24s):
A lot of those cases you can’t get away from bringing those cases home with you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (8m 28s):
Yeah. I would say two things about that. One is having a family of a bunch of police officers, most people in this world, thankfully have no idea what’s going on out there, right? The horrific things that you’ve seen. And some of the stories that my father and my uncles and my brother tell me, and even stuff that I see in the hospital, most people don’t even know that this is going on. And it’s just so incredibly sad that it’s hard. And as you say, just like in my job, when I have a death or whatever, I tend to go home and Lauren, my wife will have maybe dinner on the table and I might just say, I need a minute, pour myself a glass of wine and then just turn on ESPN and sit in the dark for a few minutes just to catch.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (9m 14s):
But people have asked me that question too. And my answer is that, and you said it before, it’s so gratifying in the end because you feel like you’re doing something important and either you run towards it or you run away from it and there’s nothing wrong with running away from it. There’s physicians who choose to deal with the life and death. And there’s physicians that want to do more of the primary care. My family member that was in juvenile, he said, this is not for me. And he did something else and he had a great career, but it is hard. But before we talk about the child advocacy center, let’s talk about, maybe we can talk about that. So tell the audience how this happens, right? So you get a phone call and there’s a report of child abuse.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (9m 54s):
There’s multiple conversations that have to happen versus the police officer. And then it goes, take us through how that works. If you don’t mind,
Tony DeVincenzo (10m 1s):
We’ve really come a long way just as a society in the way that we respond to child abuse cases, probably over the last 40 years or so. Where today we really are engaging in more what we call multidisciplinary team investigation. So all of the different partner agencies at different disciplines that are typically involved in investigating an allegation of child abuse, law enforcement, child protection services, medical people, mental health, family, advocates, all come together at the beginning of an investigation. As soon as there’s an outcry from a child, they come together and really start to work more in cooperation with each other, right from the beginning.
Tony DeVincenzo (10m 42s):
And that’s a big difference in what used to happen. What used to happen is if you can imagine the child makes an outcry. And before we had multidisciplinary teams, before we had child advocacy centers, that child would have to engage with all of these different professionals, a lot of times at different times and in different places. So the child may be brought to the police station and have to talk to a police officer. And then a CPS worker would want to talk to them and show up at the home. And maybe if the circumstances warranted, they’d have to go to the emergency room for a medical exam when the child is being bounced around and at each stop being asked all of the same questions over and over again. And what we were finding was that this system that was really designed to protect kids was retraumatizing kids.
Tony DeVincenzo (11m 26s):
And not through any fault of the players, the people are all doing their work with good intentions. We just didn’t really know how to cooperate and how to collaborate. And that’s where this child advocacy center model came into being. And this idea of doing more multidisciplinary team investigations. So what happens now is that same child will make an outcry. And sometimes someone will respond to the house or to the school or wherever the child may be. And there may be that initial discussion with a police officer and a CPS worker, if the case warrants that kind of a response. And that’s an initial conversation that needs to be had with family members a little bit with the child, anybody else who may have some information about what this allegation is about.
Tony DeVincenzo (12m 12s):
But ideally what we want to do is to have that child brought to a child advocacy center as quickly as possible. And it’s there where that team will come together and start to engage in all of the conversations that need to be had with non offending caregivers or guardians. They will set up a time to do a forensic interview of that child, where someone’s actually going to sit in a room and talk to the child and ask questions about the allegation and then discuss with the family, some followup steps, and what’s going to happen next.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (12m 41s):
So the forensic interview with the child, you did that. And so it’s gotta be very different interviewing a five-year-old and interviewing a 15 year old, how much training do you get for that? And how difficult is it, which one’s harder to interview?
Tony DeVincenzo (12m 55s):
tough to answer, because the one thing I always say, when you’re talking about, you know, you’re not interviewing children, you’re interviewing a child and every child is different, right? So sometimes a four year old can be the easiest interview in the world because they don’t really have a, a concept of what has happened to them is something bad. So they will very easily and almost sometimes even laughing and just tell you about what happened, because they have no context for that. Like teenagers sometimes can be really difficult. If anybody out there has teenagers, you know, how difficult those conversations can be?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (13m 34s):
Oh God, I talk about
Tony DeVincenzo (13m 38s):
In general. But now imagine going into that conversation and trying to ask them about what I would imagine is probably the most traumatic thing that has ever happened in their life. So I think they’re all difficult conversations. We’re trained. Typically forensic interviewers are trained in a specific type of protocol about how to ask the questions. And that protocol is really designed to elicit information in a neutral fact-finding way. Let’s get to stand up in court, that’s going to be legally acceptable. And so there’s training in that and included in that training is a lot of information about child development and how to ask proper questions and things like that.
Tony DeVincenzo (14m 19s):
I think we could do a better job though, in, in training forensic interviewers, and really everybody that’s involved in responding to child abuse in their communities, just around how to have those more everyday conversations and how to just talk to children and talk to adults about child abuse and what’s happened to them.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (14m 39s):
Yeah. So you have the conversations with the child, typically who initiated the complaint. Is it a neighbor? Is it the child? Is it, we always joke. It’s always the boyfriend. Is it the mother, the father what’s the most common?
Tony DeVincenzo (14m 52s):
I don’t know that there’s a common way. Usually allegations have come out in a couple of different ways. You either, it comes out accidentally, the child will be demonstrating some type of behavior. That’s not normal. That would give someone an indication that maybe they’re being abused. And then there’s other purposeful allegations where a child will just come out and say, uncle so-and-so is doing something to me. Or sometimes we’ll see allegations come out in the school setting where something will come up in school, there’ll be some kind of a prevention program or an awareness program, or there’ll be talking about the topic. And then a child will disclose to a teacher or a counselor. Those are a lot of different ways that, that the allegations could come out.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (15m 32s):
So I’ll tell you a funny story just to lighten this up just a little bit. So my oldest one, Joey was I guess, five, and he wasn’t a great eater. He didn’t never want to eat anything. He wanted eat pasta. And that was it. And so when he was really into WWE wrestling, that was his thing. He watched it every night and he loved WWE wrestling. And so the thing that at that time was daddy would come home from work. And then after dinner, we would pretend the wrestle on the ground and he would pretend he was WWE and, you know, think kind of thing a dad does what his son, when he wouldn’t eat dinner, I try a little reverse psychology. And I’d say, Joey, please don’t eat. Because if you eat that chicken, it’s going to make you really strong. And daddy won’t be able to be joined wrestling.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (16m 13s):
And of course he’d shovel the food down one day, Lauren gets a phone call from the kindergarten teacher and she says, Mrs. Orsini I feel really weird about asking you about this. But Joey says that if he doesn’t eat his dinner, daddy beats him. And so Lauren gets, Oh my God, we’re in trouble. So Lauren explains it to the teacher and she gets a good laugh, but I always thought that was a funny story. Like he says, my daddy beats me If I don’t eat chicken.
Tony DeVincenzo (16m 44s):
I’ll say it was a funny story, but I applaud the teacher for following through because one of the challenges that we have in this field is that people don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to respond to a situation like that. And sometimes the easiest thing to do is to say, Oh, they probably didn’t mean anything by that. Dr. Orsini is a doctor and a pillar in the community. There’s no way he would ever beat his child and just leave it at that, which can be dangerous. One thing I will say about being in this field for such a long time, it is the one thing that kind of spans every demographic. You know, I worked in Morris County is where I did a lot of my work, which I think still today is probably one of the 10 richest counties in the United States.
Tony DeVincenzo (17m 27s):
And we’ve had cases that involve some of the richest people in the County and in the country to some of the people that were really disadvantaged. Lawyers to homeless, you name it, men, women, every demographic you could think of there have been incidents of abuse within those communities. You know, one thing I always tell people when I’m out in the community, doing more awareness work is don’t ever think that this can’t happen because, and so is, and you fill in the blank, a doctor or the coach of the team or a teacher or whatever the case may be.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (17m 60s):
I think it’s a common misconception that this is something that happens in the inner city, low socioeconomic, but it’s really not true. And we see that in our emergency room. And we see that just about everywhere. You and I last time spoke about a conversation that occurs after you’ve found out or determined that the child is as being abused. And maybe let’s say it’s uncle Rick or uncle John or whatever, or the boyfriend. We talked about a particular conversation that you have to have when you’re actually sitting with mom and maybe that’s the boyfriend or the uncle. And you have to tell mom, listen, we’ve determined that is being sexually abused by the uncle or whatever.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (18m 42s):
Take us through that conversation because that’s gotta be hard the first convince them maybe, or do they generally know it, but won’t admit it or how’s that go.
Tony DeVincenzo (18m 50s):
It kind of runs the gamut. And it’s interesting. And there’s really, I think two conversations where I have found to be really difficult. One is that initial conversation when a family first shows up at a child advocacy center and let’s just use the example that the family’s coming down to a child advocacy center is when you really have to engage with that family. And it’s that introductory period where family they’re aware that there’s been some kind of an allegation, but they really don’t know what’s going on. And all of a sudden they’re being brought to this new place and a child to keep that in mind too, a child is also being brought to this new place to talk to these new people. And that is a difficult conversation to have with a family, to introduce them to the process, to introduce them to what has been said at that point.
Tony DeVincenzo (19m 37s):
We really don’t know what is true and what’s not true, but we need to tell them what is being said. And then I think what’s equally important is then to get them on board with the process. These are the steps that we are going to need to take to follow through with these allegations. And like you said, you’re dealing with people that can be anywhere from just in complete disbelief, right? There’s no way that this happened. I’ll go through this, but there’s no way that this happened to complete crisis mode. And then they could be anywhere in between. And as I’m sure they can move up and down that continuum, as you’re speaking to them in the middle of that conversation, we can go from disbelief to full blown crisis and then all the way back.
Tony DeVincenzo (20m 21s):
And that is a difficult conversation that I think anybody can be having that conversation. Law enforcement, CPS in our child advocacy centers. Now we have an incredible group of people that are family advocates, and they are just such a great resource to the child advocacy centers. And they really do a lot of work with family members and non offending caregivers, and really help us to have better conversations in that context. And getting back to what you were talking about, the conversation that we had once you do get them on board, and then you go through that forensic interview that we spoke about. There’s another conversation that needs to happen with non offending caregivers, where you’re telling them what happened in that forensic interview.
Tony DeVincenzo (21m 2s):
And it’s that conversation that I kind of parallel to what you talk about a lot about breaking bad news when you’re breaking bad news about a diagnosis. I think it’s that conversation where this really becomes real. If the child has disclosed that they’ve been abused, we need to go into that room and have a conversation about this is what the child said. This is now what we know has happened. And that is not an easy conversation to have. And I’ll be honest with you. We don’t get a lot of training in how to have those conversations.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (21m 33s):
And you approached me a few months ago about maybe the Orsini way, providing some training for your advocates, but just to give some advice because you did it for so long, what’s your best advice on how to begin that conversation and tell that what’d you call it a Non-offending what’s our terminology is usually not offending caregiver. Okay, there you go. A lot of times we step, we go right to mom,
Tony DeVincenzo (21m 56s):
But that’s not always true. And a lot of times it’s not apparent at all. It could be a guardian, it could be an aunt and uncle, some other kids, someone else that’s caregiving that is the caregiver for the child. So we tend to use that phrase, non- offending caregiver, but like I said, we don’t always get a lot of training in that conversation. We do get training, especially in law enforcement, we get a lot of training and crisis intervention. People are in crisis. They need to be deescalated. We get a lot of training around that, how to deescalate people that are in crisis. But I think it’s that everyday conversation that you need to have that I think is so impactful to the family members that oftentimes we don’t spend a lot of time working on. And I use a lot of the tips.
Tony DeVincenzo (22m 37s):
I have Tony, honestly come straight from you. And the work that you do, the one thing I think that I always tell people is understand that you’re going into this conversation about to break news of probably like I said, the most horrific thing that has happened to this family. You are dropping a bomb on this family and this field. And I don’t know, this may be true of the medical profession too. It’s very easy for us because we’re dealing with tragedy all the time. It’s very easy to get callous. And then we just get focused on doing our job. I’m going to go in, I’m going to do my job. I’m going to tell them what the child said. I’m going to get the information that I need and I’m going to get out because then I have to continue on with the next steps of our job.
Tony DeVincenzo (23m 24s):
I think it’s just important to understand that you’re going in and talking to some people whose lives have literally been turned upside down in the last, however many hours we’ve been involved in this investigation. I’m hoping we can get some of your training into the child advocacy center world, but just little things like where you sit, sitting next to people. I think one of the big things about this is to be patient. This is not a two minute conversation. This is a case that needs to take as long as it needs to take. Yeah. It’s hard to say how long it should be, but yeah. And I’ve had people ask me that I’ve had new detectives and new child protection workers.
Tony DeVincenzo (24m 4s):
Well, how long should I be in there? And the answer is this, as long as you need to be, as long as it takes. And I think we have to give a lot of family members, the opportunity to process what we’re saying, that you can’t just leave this on them, wipe your hands and walk out of the room, give them a little time to process what you’re saying, listen to what they have to say. I always think observing how people are reacting to this is also a big part of that conversation. And then just wait and answer whatever questions that they may have for you. The one thing I always tell people is people are probably, and you may know more about this than I do because you’ve done a lot of the research on this.
Tony DeVincenzo (24m 48s):
People are probably processing what, maybe a third of what you’re actually telling them. If that, of the information that you’re giving them,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (24m 55s):
What we teach is that after you break the bad news, you know, your child was abused. They only process 10% after that. And so my biggest advice when I discuss breaking a bad news, and as you and I have spoken before the parallels between what you do and what I do to tell mother or father their child has cancer or their child’s going to pass away. There’s so many parallels to that. But what I always suggest my main suggestion is give the evidence first and let the person who’s receiving the bad news, almost come to that conclusion on their own. So I think there’s a lot of times we make mistakes and say your child has cancer. And then spend the next 20 minutes Trying to what I always say is the person who’s receiving the bad news, their job is to prove you wrong.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (25m 41s):
If you’re saying I’m here to tell you that uncle Todd is abusing your child, their first response is going to be denial. So the same thing is if I’m telling you that you have cancer, you’re going to be in denial. So if I could present the evidence first, and then when I tell you have cancer, you almost already know that it’s coming. I think that’s really important, but yeah, it’s 10% afterwards. And so I love what you said, be patient, because then you have to sit there silently. And if you rush through it, they’re going to think that you rushed through your decision that you’ve made this determination. You’re not even sure. So I think that’s really great advice.
Tony DeVincenzo (26m 18s):
It’s very specific to our field is, and we train on this all the time and I can’t say it enough is, but you should always be number one, always have that conversation. And number two, always give the non-offending caregivers some information. There’s a variety of reasons in a child abuse investigation, where you may not be able to share everything that you know, at that point, but you should never leave them with no information. And I think honesty and just being transparent is listen. There’s a bunch of things that I just can’t talk to you about right now. And that’s not because I don’t want to there’s, but there’s a different re and if you can’t explain why you can’t tell them, explain why you can’t tell them, but just make sure that you’re explaining to them why you can’t do that and never leave them with no information at all, because you could just imagine if you’re being broken that kind of news and someone just walks in and says, yep, your child disclosed that they’re being abused.
Tony DeVincenzo (27m 15s):
We’re going to go on with our investigation and we’ll be in touch. It’s just
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 20s):
Not going to go well.
Tony DeVincenzo (27m 22s):
Because honestly, and I’m sure you know, this in the medical field too, a big part of that conversation is you want this family to be on board with the rest of this process. Selfishly, we want people on board because it’s just going to help the investigative process. But we also know from a lot of research that, and I’m sure this is true in the medical field as well, support from non offending caregivers and family members. It goes a long way in helping the child heal from any kind of trauma. And if we can’t get the family on board with that, we’re just putting this child at a disadvantage to process the trauma that has happened to them. And then to move forward through their healing process, forget about the investigative part.
Tony DeVincenzo (28m 5s):
It’s just their healing process that we also need to be concerned about as well.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (28m 10s):
Great advice. Tony, tell us about the Northeast children’s advocacy center, who they are, what they do and your role current role in that position.
Tony DeVincenzo (28m 19s):
So we are, what’s called a regional child advocacy center. We’re a project of the department of justice, who is our grant funder in the North, either for regional child advocacy centers around the country. One of ours in the Northeast that is based out of the Philadelphia children’s Alliance, which is the child advocacy center in Philadelphia. There’s a Midwest region in Minnesota, Western region, out in San Diego and a Southern region down in Alabama at the national children’s advocacy center. And we’re basically, we’re tasked with providing training and technical assistance to the 900 plus child advocacy centers and multidisciplinary teams that are spread out across the United States.
Tony DeVincenzo (29m 1s):
And so that’s what we do here in the Northeast. We do the nine States. I like to say, I draw a line at the bottom of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then I just go up the coast to Maine. Those are the nine States that we cover. So we work with teams on training, on a variety of different issues, team development, leadership, team building, all of that kind of stuff.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (29m 21s):
Do you work with every city, every town, or is it their choice whether to participate or not? Or is this, should I assume that every city is involved?
Tony DeVincenzo (29m 31s):
Yeah, like I said, there’s about, I don’t know the exact number. That’s about 900 plus child advocacy centers across the United States. Right now we do regional work where we’ll provide training and technical assistance, more global, more general topics. If a child advocacy center wants us, then we will come in and do a more deeper dive with individual centers, individual teams. But yeah, if you look at any County city, even small towns around the country, and I know you have an audience that spread out around the country, there’s a child advocacy center somewhere close by.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 4s):
You’re a training specialist. What does that mean? That they specifically do?
Tony DeVincenzo (30m 13s):
That’s like I said, we go out, there’s three of us in our region. And like I said, we’ll go out and provide workshops on a variety of different topics from victim advocacy to vicarious trauma for professionals in this field. And then, and like I said, then we’ll do, and we also do more individual work. So we’ll go in and work with a team on strategic planning, on setting goals for their team on team building activities, and really trying to get that multidisciplinary team to work as collaboratively and cooperatively as they possibly can when they’re responding to child abuse.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 49s):
Sounds like an absolutely wonderful thing. And I’m really so glad. Is it a 501C3 or is it funded? Can people help out if they want to help out?
Tony DeVincenzo (30m 58s):
Yeah, like I said, we’re grant funded from the department of justice, but my suggestion would be, if you were interested in getting involved, find your local child advocacy center, there’s probably a child advocacy center somewhere in your community or close by. There’s a national organization to the National Children’s Alliance that works with all the child advocacy centers around the country. You can look and they have a website. You could look into helping them if you wanted to do something on a bigger scale. But I love to direct people to their local child advocacy centers because it’s down there that on the ground level where people are doing that direct service work, that’s where a lot of the magic is happening. And that’s where just, you will find a group of passionate, dedicated people whose sole purpose is to help these kids that have been traumatized.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 46s):
There’s nothing more satisfying than helping a child because you’re literally changing their trajectory of their life. They’re going down the wrong way and you help them out. And, and these amazing people that work with you are doing it for very little money. No, one’s getting rich doing this.
Tony DeVincenzo (32m 4s):
Absolutely not. And that’s everywhere from the law enforcement people that are working in this unit to the CPS workers, to the mental health and the medical staff and all of the people that are working in the child advocacy centers. I don’t know too many that are becoming wealthy doing this. I can tell you that that doesn’t affect the passion that they have for this work. It’s probably been the biggest joy of being involved in this for so long. And you asked me one of the questions you asked me earlier is how I’ve stayed in this for so long. And I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that I just have the opportunity to meet and engage with some of the most passionate people that I’ve ever met in my life.
Tony DeVincenzo (32m 44s):
And I’m amazed every day about the work they’re doing and just how dedicated they are to help these kids. And that hasn’t manifested itself more than it has over this past year because child abuse hasn’t gone away just because we’ve been quarantined. Has it gotten worse because of the COVID you think it’s hard to say right now? I think reporting has certainly Jew everywhere of reporting has gone way down because children just aren’t being exposed to a lot of the people in the places where it would make these reports, schools, physicians, things like that. And I don’t know what the numbers are saying yet, but I would guess that the numbers are going to be just as high, if not higher than they ever were.
Tony DeVincenzo (33m 26s):
I know there’s been some early research around people are seeing a lot more severe physical abuse cases than we’ve seen in the past. People are bottled up and emotions are running high. And sadly in a lot of cases that gets taken out on the kids that are in the home.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (33m 39s):
Yeah, I know alcoholism’s up drug abuse abuses is up depression, suicide. The kids are home from school. Their suicide is up for the kids. Maybe as you said, tempers are running short because the kids are home all day. So I would urge everybody to take Tony’s advice and support your local child advocacy center. Tony also has his own podcast. The name of the podcast on
Tony DeVincenzo (34m 3s):
Our podcast is called the NRCA C team talk podcast. And we focus on really things that are happening in child advocacy centers around the country.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 12s):
Fantastic. And thank you so much for being on today. If they want to get in touch with you or someone where you are, what’s the best way to do that.
Tony DeVincenzo (34m 19s):
You can check out our website, it’s www N R C A C.org. I can put my contact information into your show notes as well. If anybody wants to reach out to me directly, the national children’s Alliance is another great resource for information about child abuse. They have a website which I will give you their website, too, that you could put in their show notes. I’ll put it in the show notes. And then, like I said, if you want more local information, please, I would direct you to your local child advocacy center. They’ll have a wealth of information about child abuse in general, how to report all of that kind of information. And they are always looking for support from the community.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 59s):
That’s awesome. Thanks so much. Who would have thought that when we were 12 years old, these two goofy kids, what ended up interviewing each other on their podcast? So it’s an issue we’re just trying to get through life. Tony, thanks so much for coming on. This was fantastic. Put all the stuff for contact information on the show notes. If you want to learn more about the Orsini way, please contact me@ Dr.Orsini@theorsiniway.com. Our website is TheOrsiniway.com. Tony. Thank you. It was a pleasure and hope to talk to you soon.
Tony DeVincenzo (35m 30s):
Yeah, I really appreciate it, Tony. Thanks for the opportunity to let people know about this issue. And I will just leave you with, if you do suspect something just report it. There’s ways that you can report it in your community, in your individual States. So don’t hesitate to make those reports If you suspect something.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (35m 47s):
Thank you for doing what you’re doing, it’s really important work. And it’s like you said, it’s not something you get rich on, but you get rich inside and you get rich I believe in heaven because this is great work. So thanks again. And I will speak your real soon. Thank you.
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