Clint Williams is the executive director of the Mary Abbott Children’s House in Norman, and he also represents Ward 2 on the Norman City Council. The Mary Abbott Children’s House is a “safe place for children to tell their stories after a sexual or severe physical trauma,” according to its website. In this NonDoc Q&A, Williams speaks about how to best help traumatized youth, the biggest issues facing Norman currently, and how he sometimes gets mistaken for an intern.
Who works for you, and about how many children do you see in given week (or month/year)? Do you serve children from outside the Norman area?
We have six full-time staff members who work at Abbott House, but we also work closely with a larger team of professionals (law enforcement, child welfare, medical professionals, mental health professionals, etc.) who have a stake in these types of cases. We see between 35 and 65 children in a given month and officially serve Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties. We also provide service to between five and 10 additional counties each year.
What are the best practices for helping a youth who has experienced a significant childhood trauma?
We have a mantra at Abbott House when we work with children who have been through a childhood trauma. When they come here, we do our very best to make them feel welcome, safe and valued. I think this mantra can serve the general public in the same way.
What are the risks for young people who have not been able to receive professional help in processing traumatic experiences?
The risks are manifold, but the most important reason children should have access to professional services after trauma is so they will not relive the incident over and over.
Tell us a little about Dr. Mary Abbott. For full disclosure, she was my pediatrician, but my memories are mostly of large needles and mediocre candy suckers.
I never met her personally, but not a day goes by without someone telling me that their children (or these days adults as well) saw Dr. Abbott in practice. She was an amazing champion for children, and so when it came time to name our advocacy center, we knew we wanted her name to forever be synonymous with our work.
What are the legal and ethical guidelines that guide your staff when helping these children? Since Oklahoma has strict mandatory reporting laws, do your counselors pass cases off to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services? Do they sign affidavits or appear in court?
Our governing body, the National Children’s Alliance, sets forth 10 standards of practice and general operations that guide our work. With regard to mandatory reporting, cases come to us through DHS and law enforcement, so the reports have already been made by the time we intervene.
If someone reading this suspects a child they know is being abused, what would you tell him or her to do?
Any time someone suspects abuse of a child, we instruct them to contact law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. The statewide DHS hotline number is 1-800-522-3511. In situations in which a child is in immediate danger, we always recommend calling 911.
Let’s talk about municipal politics for a second. You were elected to represent Norman residents of Ward 2 on the City Council in 2014. On what platform did you run, and how have you tangibly approached that so far?
I ran on the need for a water-rate increase to take care of some of the city’s water-supply issues. I also stated a commitment to listen and be responsive to my constituents’ needs. Finally, I hoped to instill a sense of greater civility in public discourse at the municipal level. As they say, two outta three ain’t bad, right?
What is the biggest issue facing Norman right now?
The next issue that the council sees as pressing is the need for a storm-water utility. The unprecedented flooding this summer was yet another reminder that our storm-water infrastructure is in dire need of repair, and not just a “quick fix,” but a long-term solution. Many of us feel adopting a storm-water utility is the first step in mitigating storm-water issues.
With the issue “postponed indefinitely” by the City Council, what was your position on the military-style vehicles the Norman Police Department has proposed purchasing?
I hadn’t given it much thought when I heard the potential purchase of an all-purpose rescue vehicle had been postponed, but if the issue is taken up again, I’ll be considering the need versus cost and the potential advantages of such a tool in an active-shooter situation versus the implications and perception of a “militarized” police force.
What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you so far as an elected official?
More than once, I’ve been mistaken for a city-staff intern. I’m a small guy and a relatively young-looking 34-year-old, so I guess it comes with the territory.
If you were playing Sim City and could do one thing for Norman, what would it be? Space-alien invasion?
I would say probably building Norman on a beach. It’s the one thing we’re missing.