About New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center (NOCAC):
Located near Audubon Park, The New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center (NOCAC), is one of New Orlean’s most dedicated non-profit organizations to helping children impacted by physical and sexual abuse. NOCAC’s mission focuses on providing a coordinated, multi-agency approach to the investigation, intervention, and treatment of child sexual and physical abuse. NOCAC is an extension of The Audrey Hepburn Children at Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center. According to their website, www.chnola.org/community/audrey-hepburn-care-center, The CARE Center is a comprehensive child abuse center providing state-of-the-art pediatric forensic medicine evaluations.
The Interview with Maria Isabella Pontoriero:
This interview highlights Maria Isabella Pontoriero (MIP), NOCAC’s very own Human Trafficking Case Manager Social Worker and Staff Forensic Interviewer at the Children’s Hospital, specifically at The Care Center. In this eye-opening interview, she describes how she is originally from New Jersey but stayed in New Orleans for the past eight years and has worked at NOCAC for fourteen months. Maria explains that NOCAC uses a multidisciplinary team approach in child abuse investigations. These investigations are made up of a whole team of people: Forensic Interviewers, the Child Abuse Pediatricians, Case Manager Social Workers, and Advocates. She also notes how NOCAC is in partnership with the district attorney’s office, law enforcement, Department of Children and Family Services, and have providers in the community who they partner with that directly refer children to trauma focused counseling.
Maria details NOCAC’s mission: Our mission here at the New Orleans CAC is to provide a bright spot in a dark time for kids and their non-offending caregivers. So, we do that by providing quality evidence-based forensic interviews, as well as forensic medical exams. We also provide very extensive case management to the kids and their non-offending caregivers because we know that it’s not enough just to interview the child. We also want to treat that trauma and make sure that when they leave our doors they’re equipped to recover and heal from them” she explains.
The interview also provides details on NOCAC’s current and future goals. Maria discusses how their current goals would be to keep strengthening the multi-agency approach to make sure that all cases are investigated and treated. In addition, their future goals would be to increase community awareness and prevention. NOCAC is always in the community training individuals on child physical and sexual abuse prevention. Maria specializes in training on trafficking.
Maria stresses the importance of “improving not just a multidisciplinary response, but really the community response to child abuse and neglect.”
The end of the interview highlights the importance of Louisiana laws surrounding child abuse neglect and prevention. Maria emphasizes the notion that while there are a lot of strong laws already set in place in Louisiana focused on child neglect and physical and sexual abuse prevention, it is a matter of how these laws are enforced.
Maria details the importance of having said laws and the value of “understanding of how to prosecute under those laws.”
Ever since accepting the job as Human Trafficking Case Manager Social Worker and Staff Forensic Interviewer at NOCAC, Maria has been extremely dedicated to helping every single individual who walks through their door.