SAFE launches app for working with child abuse victims with disabilities

Written by Emma Rogers

Research shows that children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to be victims of violence than children without disabilities. Yet, they are much less likely to have that abuse recognized, reported, investigated, or successfully prosecuted.

SAFE’s Disability Services program is looking to change that statistic. They recently launched the All Kids SAFE digital guide, which provides information and communication tips to support law enforcement and other child abuse investigators who interact with child victims who have disabilities or who are Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and/or hard of hearing (DDBDDHH). All Kids SAFE functions like an app and can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, allowing investigators to skim the information quickly in the field or read it more thoroughly at the office.

Since it launched earlier this year, the app has been downloaded on almost 10,000 smart phones and tablets of front-line Child Protective Services staff.

“When a child or adolescent with a disability has been abused and is in distress, first responders and child abuse investigators may not immediately recognize that the child has a disability – or know how to best respond,” Shell Schwartz, SAFE Disability Services Director, said. “Our hope is that the digital guide will provide practical information that is easy to access during those times, whether the child is at school, at home, or in the community.”

WATCH: All Kids SAFE featured on CBS Austin

What’s in the guide?

First responders and investigators can find guidance on how to more effectively interview children with disabilities, as well as how to create an environment where the child feels safe and calm. It also contains more information about specific disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, communication disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and more.

The All Kids SAFE project was funded by the Texas Center for the Judiciary through a Children’s Justice Act grant. Input for the guide came largely from people with disabilities and family members of children with disabilities, as well as from Child Protective Services, teachers, disability service providers, and victim services staff.

“The bottom line is that first responders and investigators need information in the field about working with child victims with disabilities. This digital guide places that information at their fingertips,” Shell said.

To load the All Kids SAFE app on your mobile device, click here for instructions.