Behind a thick pane of glass with a phone wedged between his ear and shoulder, Kevin McTeague, executive director of FACES (Family Advocacy Center and Education Services) sat feverishly scribbling notes. The child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence support center's only other employee had just left on vacation, and McTeague was running the show. In addition to manning the glass-encased reception area and buzzing people into the two waiting rooms, McTeague fielded calls from victims and from the various agencies that work with FACES. On a less chaotic day, McTeague sat down in one of the facility's soothingly decorated victim interview rooms and excitedly explained his work.
What exactly does FACES do?
FACES is a pretty unique organization. We're a partnership between law enforcement, the hospitals--both hospitals are involved with us--Ada County Prosecutor's Office, Boise City Attorney's Office, Boise Police, Ada County Sheriff, Meridian Police and Garden City Police. Then we have the Women's and Children's Alliance, Idaho Legal Aid and Catholic Charities. We're a mix of law enforcement, prosecution and medical forensic--we have the St. Luke's and St. Al's sexual assault forensic examiner ... We're trying to bring it all into one place. We're actually a nonprofit, we're a 501c3, but Ada County owns this building; they developed [it], and they paid for it.
What do you think prompted Ada County to unite all of these organizations?
This has been a movement across the country to create family justice centers. There's also one in Nampa ... The centers really got a boost in, I think, 2003 when the Bush administration launched an initiative to develop centers across the country. Nampa went after that grant and got it. Ada County didn't. They said, "We're going to do this here, but we're going to do it our own way."
How did you get involved with FACES?
I was a stay-at-home dad. I was in a career transition when I came to FACES. I had worked for Terry Reilly Health Services for about seven years. I was their operations officer, so I managed health care clinics ... My whole history has been ... in the nonprofit helping-professions at a coordinating level. Developing programs and raising the funds to run those programs. What's a typical work day for you?
A lot of my time is spent communicating with our various partner organizations. I spend a lot of time looking for money, writing grant proposals and marketing FACES to the community. A lot of what we're doing here is bringing different professions and different disciplines [together] that don't necessarily see each other's point of view--they don't always mesh well. Bringing them all into one location takes a lot of nurturing.
How many people are on staff?
FACES has one other staff person, she's the client services coordinator, Judy. Then we have, here in the center, about 12 agencies that have staff based here or actively working in the center ... We have the St. Luke's Children At Risk Evaluation Services--the CARES program. They are based here in their entirety ... Also, Health and Welfare has a seven-member team from Child Protective Services that are based here ... For adult services, the SAFE [Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners] program coordinator is based here. We have nurses from St. Luke's and St. Al's that are on-call in rotation for performing sexual assault examinations ... Approximately 70 percent of the sexual assault exams that occur in Ada County are done here in FACES now. We've effectively moved them out of the hospital emergency rooms.
Why is that?
We're able to do it here in a much more private setting, which you won't get in an emergency room. Often victims will present at the hospital, so the nurses will talk to them right away ... about their options. "We can take you to FACES, you don't have to do this here." Generally they say "Yeah, that's great. Let's get out of here." Then law enforcement takes them here.
So is there somebody always on call?
A lot of this--particularly with the sexual assault work--is done on an immediate response basis, and it's often after our regular business hours. We have a security guard here that's on site in the building from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. He is here basically to have a presence and in case anyone presents at the front door.
How many victims do you help a year?
In 2008, the CARES program had about 780 children. And that was a bit of a reduction from the prior year. There's been some reduced reporting nationally around child abuse, and we actually saw that here. No one's quite sure why, but it's been a national trend ... We saw about 94 adults, sexual assault victims. And for domestic violence work, it was like 270 or so.
Is there a particular time of year that you see more cases?
Within the child abuse, there are definitely cyclical patterns. As school starts up, reporting tends to increase. I think that's partly because kids are back in school, teachers are seeing them. Then summers drop a little bit. Before school ends ... kids tend to do more self-reporting because they're going to be out of school and home more so there's more concern there. That's anecdotal, but those are the trends that we've seen. With the domestic violence work, it really peaks around the holidays.
Have you seen any changes with the downturn in the economy?
Not yet. There's definitely an expectation that we'll see some increases just because of the financial stress. I can't really say that we've seen it yet. Some folks I've talked with say there's going to be a six-month lag. If that's going to happen we'll probably start seeing it pretty soon ... But if a victim of domestic violence is really dependent on the abuser, then as this downturn in the economy comes along, I think it makes them more vulnerable. I might make them less likely to act or report.
What's one of the more eye-opening experiences you've had working with victims?
We'll see a lot of kids come in ... that have been through some awful stuff. But to see some of the resilience in some of these children. At the end of a visit to the CARES program, the kid says to the doctor, "When can I come back?" They felt valued; they felt respected. Some of these kids don't get that in the situations that they're in.