WHAT IS THE CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTER?
The Terrrebonne Children's Advocacy Center is a non-profit agency initiated by Joe Waitz, Jr. to coordinate the community's response to the problem of child abuse. Mr. Waitz appointed Bernadette Robinet Pickett, Assistant District Attorney, as the Executive Director.
It is a child-friendly place where children are interviewed about their abuse. By agreement, child protection, and the law enforcement agencies refer all cases of child sexual and physical abuse to the center. All necessary persons are present. The story is told and recorded. This keeps the child from having to go from agency to agency telling the story over and over.
HOW ARE THESE INTERVIEWS CONDUCTED?
Dawn Buquet , a specially trained forensic interviewer, conducts the interview as it is being recorded. A special interview room is used. A viewing room gives child protection and law enforcement a bird's eye view of what is taking place. The interviewer wears an earpiece and the viewing room has a microphone linked to the earpiece in case any of the law enforcement personnel needs a question asked or clarified. All is done in an effort to do one solid interview.
WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE PROVIDED TO THESE VICTIMS?
MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING:
The child victim and the parents/guardian are informed of the availability of mental health counseling. Dana Davis, MSW is our Licensed Clinical Social Worker on staff. She works with the victim until she determines they no longer need her assistance.
CRIME VICTIM ASSISTANCE:
Jean Renee Taylor is the center's victim assistance coordinator. She works with the victim to let them know what to expect as the trial gets near. She maintains a good rapport with the victim. She shows them around the courtroom and makes sure they have a familiar friendly face during the trial.
HOW DOES THIS HELP IN THE JUDICIAL PROCESS?
The videotaped statement of the victim is admissible evidence in a legal proceeding. This may keep the child from having to tell thier story in a crowded courtroom. Since the defense attorney has the right to cross examine the victim, we do prepare the child for the possibility of being called to testify. The interviewer, mental health provider and victim assistance coordinator all work with the victim preparing them for the possibility of coming face to face with the offender.
TEAM REVIEW MEETINGS:
The center has monthly meetings called team review. Team review is a round table discussion with the prosecutor, the interviewer, the victim assistance coordinator, child protection and law enforcement. They brainstorm to come up with the best answers for difficult cases to try and find other available resources for abused and/or neglected children.
The center runs strictly off of grants and fundraising efforts. Separate grants are in place to pay a couple of the salaries, while the executive director is on loan from the District Attorney's Office. Fundraising is critical. Money is needed to pay for anything from snacks for the kids to clothes they may need for court.
HOW MANY CHILDREN HAS THE CENTER ASSISTED?
The center opened its doors in April of 1998. That year 86 children were interviewed. Those children were referred to outside agencies for mental health assistance. Now we average about 124 new interviews a year and all of the mental health counseling is done in house.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
Our goal is to continue to provide the best services we can for the children of Terrebonne Parish. We hope to provide more group therapy sessions and do all we can to make the abused child a healthy, happy member of our society.