This, our first Annual Report to stakeholders, provides an important opportunity for the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance (MACA), to share both the successes and challenges of the past year, as well as profile the programs and people that are integral to our mission. Since our founding in 1996, MACA has become the local, state, and national go-to resource for helping victims of child abuse and the professionals that serve them.
Throughout our history, MACA has needed to be nimble, to innovate and grow as new priorities and needs emerged. We are committed, not only to the children we serve but also to those who entrust us with this work and to our funders, whose support enables us to develop new programs, expand the reach and effectiveness of existing initiatives and become ever better partners to the children’s advocacy center community.
A Year of Growth in a Year of Challenge
Like many organizations, MACA faced new challenges with the advent of the pandemic — not least how to innovate and transition our programs and services to virtual platforms and continue to support our partners also working under unprecedented conditions.
Even before the pandemic, MACA had recognized the great potential of Tele-health Services and secured a competitive grant to train clinicians on appropriate and effective ways to help children via tele-health. Virtual visits provide us with many new opportunities to be more inclusive, reach more children and offer them a safe, more comfortable environment.
In May 2020, after securing one of two competitive grants in the country, we offered a 3-hour basic training to clinicians across Massachusetts, with the help and support of trainers from the Medical University of South Carolina and the National Children’s Alliance (NCA). We were thrilled to have clinicians from the Family Advocacy Center, which is part of the Baystate Medical Center, and from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. To further support our clinicians, our funding also included supplies such as iPads and therapy tools that can improve services. The launch of this initiative coincided with stay-at-home advisories so when NCA asked if we would use our first training as a “crash course” for clinicians across the country, we opened our virtual doors to over 500 folks.
Another priority for us this past year was the statewide Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) initiative for trafficked children. Having successfully applied for a competitive award from the MA Office for Victim Assistance for our “CSEC Service Enhancement Project,” we worked to launch and expand the program by adding 12 new positions statewide. These positions help enhance our integrative services for CSEC and high-risk victims and are essential to giving more victims access to care. Additionally, we stepped up to leadership of the advisory board (administration commissioners, service providers and others) to collaborate and ensure that that the work we are doing is relevant, reaching the right kids and being conducted in the right way.
In July 2020, we began a new pilot program leading statewide awareness and interventions for children with Problematic Sexual Behavior (PSB). These are children whose sexual behaviors go beyond what is typical for their age and development, and who may pose a risk to the safety and well-being of themselves or others. Endorsed by legislative task force and a new area for us, we are both honored and challenged to have been entrusted with this work, which isn’t just program development and clinical training, but a real shift in philosophy about the populations we can serve.
Each of these exemplify how successful MACA has been in meeting — and exceeding — our mission even as expectations of us and the need for our work has continued to rise. Though our team has devoted itself to maintaining momentum and solid growth, we are increasingly challenged to do this with our existing infrastructure, professional, and financial resources. While fortunate to have been able to build our revenue with government grants and the generosity of donors, the year ahead will require a robust commitment from the private sector to expand our work and our team to be the gold standard advocacy organization we need to be.
I would be remiss not to welcome those who may be new to us. For those unfamiliar with MACA’s work, we keep kids healthy and safe by:
- Promoting awareness and prevention of children sexual abuse
- Ensuring proper intervention and provision of services to child victims of abuse, through a network of Children’s Advocacy Centers across the state
- Providing training on “best practices” for multidisciplinary professionals, including MACA’s annual statewide conference – Healing, Hope & Justice: An Advanced Conversation
- Responding to member needs and facilitating opportunities to address gaps in services and resources
- Securing and administering state and federal funds to support the core services of member programs