Project Harmony is boldly focused on ending the cycle of abuse and neglect in our community. Together, we strive to help every child who walks through our doors find the courage to share what they have experienced or witnessed.
A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit detailed information about a possible event(s) that the child may have experienced or witnessed. Forensic interviewers have specialized training and ask non-leading, developmentally-appropriate questions in order to obtain the child’s story.
An interview is conducted at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) when requested by law enforcement or the Department of Health and Human Services. It is video recorded and the information obtained is used to assist in either corroborating or refuting allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect. Utilizing the Child Advocacy Center prevents the child from undergoing repetitive interviews, thereby reducing the child’s trauma.
The purpose of the medical examination at Project Harmony is to help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of children seen at the CAC. Our providers have pediatric experience and expertise in child abuse and neglect. This specialized training assists them in differentiating medical findings that are indicative of abuse from those which may be explained by other medical conditions or caused by accident.
Project Harmony offers medical exams to all caregivers for their child as part of our array of services. In addition, we provide medical exams to children who have been removed from their homes by DHHS or law enforcement due to unsafe living conditions.
During the exam, medical providers also assess for any unmet medical needs and emotional or behavioral problems in which the child may benefit from further evaluation and treatment. Providers often find that the child and caregiver appear to benefit greatly from the reassurance and education provided through the exam.
When a child discloses abuse or neglect or witnesses a traumatic event, it is a highly stressful and overwhelming situation for the family. Our advocates play a key role in helping to support the child and caregiver(s) throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case.
They will explain to caregiver(s) what is happening, the role of each professional involved, and what will happen next. They offer support and assistance with referrals for resources such as counseling, financial assistance, and other community support needed to help them regain control of their lives.
Advocates continue to follow up with families after they leave Project Harmony to offer any ongoing support and additional assistance they may need.
Project Harmony has several providers on-site who provide evidence-based therapies to children and families who are seen at the CAC. We recognize that offering crisis counseling as an initial response to the trauma a child and family may be experiencing is critical to helping restore their sense of safety and starting the healing process.
In addition to the immediate crisis counseling, we have a range of evidenced-based treatments and other practices for trauma, which have strong empirical evidence in reducing the impact of trauma and the risk of future abuse. Without effective therapeutic intervention, many traumatized children could suffer ongoing or long-term adverse social, emotional, behavioral, and developmental outcomes that may impact them throughout their lifetimes.
Project Harmony provides trauma informed mental health services to children and families age birth through age 18 who are involved in an initial investigation or assessment of child maltreatment by law enforcement or protective services. Mental Health services will continue as needed and whether or not the case proceeds into the child welfare system.
Services are offered to the child, the protective parent, and to siblings who have been affected. Services are offered on-site and by referral to community providers who have the experience and training to treat traumatized children.
Missing Youth Services
In October 2017, Project Harmony was asked to become involved in a collaboration with the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Assessment Center, and Omaha Police Department’s Child Victim Sexual Assault Unit around missing juveniles who are not system involved.
Recent Omaha Police data indicated from 12-01-16 to 12-01-17 there were 3,233 reports of missing juveniles under the age of 18 with 402 of the reports involving youth age 13 years and under. These youth are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and other victimization due to their young age and vulnerabilities.
For non-system involved youth, there is no current system in place to identify and assess for victimization and they continue to be at high risk for violence and exploitation with many exhibiting multiple run incidents. As a Child Advocacy Center, Project Harmony felt a responsibility to help seek solutions to this wide spread community problem of our most vulnerable youth.
Through private funding we hired a full-time intake coordinator and a full-time mental health practitioner in August 2018 to assist in the identification, assessment, treatment, and coordination of services to our community’s non-system involved missing youth. The primary target population for this project will be children age 13 or younger, identified by the Omaha Police Division as missing, and without current DHHS Child Welfare or juvenile justice involvement. In addition, project resources will be available for youth age 14 and older, who are missing as capacity allows.
A triage system has been established for non-system involved missing youth to be brought to Project Harmony for a thorough mental/behavioral health assessment, medical exam, forensic interview (if needed), advocacy, crisis counseling with the youth and caretaker, and connection to appropriate community services.
A follow up multi-disciplinary team review will be conducted with current providers, DHHS, law enforcement, Juvenile County Attorney and other professionals with expertise working with non-system involved youth, human trafficking, trauma, etc. to ensure information sharing, comprehensive treatment planning and identification and development of any service/resource needs or gaps.