Most experts underlined the need for child abuse cases to be handled by special child abuse task forces made up of representatives from several professions. "We don't expect one fireman to put out a five-alarm fire. But we have expected a few individuals, who are isolated from other professionals, to put out the fires of child abuse," said Bross of the National Assn. of Counsel for Children.
Many Look to Los Angeles
He noted that many professionals in the past have looked to Los Angeles, with its variety of resources and experts, for information in conducting their own cases.
"So naturally it was a shock. If Los Angeles can be overwhelmed by such a case, what can happen to the rest of us, especially in the rural areas?"
He believes that regional teams of medical experts, social workers, law enforcement officials and prosecutors, would be beneficial because, "they would have the expertise to handle the extraordinary case as if it were ordinary."
He also suggests that consultation hot lines be set up to aid professionals in dealing with their cases. "It would be like a second opinion in the medical field. They could get assistance from those who had done more than they, who could point out pitfalls."
Karlin of the U.S. attorney's office, notes that her agency works as part of a larger federal task force (including experts from the U.S. Post Office, Customs, FBI and local law enforcement agencies) in handling child exploitation cases.
'We Are Learning'
"When we execute search warrants, we ask trained investigators to be with us. We know we don't know what to do with the children yet. We are learning."
Some critics have questioned why the Los Angeles County district attorney's child abuse section did not handle the McMartin case.
Rita Stapleton, deputy in charge of the Los Angeles County district attorney's child abuse section, said that officials did not want to tie up three of their eight staff members on the lengthy litigation of one case.
Stapleton says her unit works on 200 cases at any one time. The unit has not slackened its efforts in light of the McMartin case problems, she said.
Stapleton believes that the attention focused on McMartin, will mirror what happened in adult rape cases in earlier years.
"The more people knew about them, the more sensitive they became to the crime and victims," Stapleton said.