NORMAN — The Senate has voted unanimously to expand Oklahoma’s Child Abuse Response Team program. First launched in 2005, the program uses investigators who are highly trained in investigating child abuse, including forensic interviews of children and case development for prosecution, to oversee and coordinate the investigation of such cases.
Sen. Kim David is principal author of Senate Bill 639 which would expand the number of CART investigators at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation .
“These investigators have special expertise in child abuse cases and working with young victims. They can manage the progression of the case and coordinate with other agencies like DHS, Mental Health and district attorneys. The problem is, Oklahoma has thousands of confirmed child abuse cases every year, but the OSBI only has two CART investigators for the entire state,” said David, R-Porter. “Under SB 639, we would expand that to eight.”
In 2011, there were more than 8,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Oklahoma, including children who had been physically abused and sexually assaulted.
“Some abuse cases involve multiple jurisdictions, which is another reason the CART program is so important,” David said. “I also think this is right on track with our ongoing efforts to reform how DHS responds to cases of child abuse. Greater utilization of CART can help us do a better job of investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases, bringing perpetrators to justice and ensuring the victims are no longer in harm’s way.”
SB 639 will now be sent to the House to await committee assignment and consideration.