Submitted by: Dr. Laura Capage, Executive Director of the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center & Licensed Psychologist
A brilliant, perceptive eight-year-old recently told me that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes, the truth hurts. When it comes to our work at the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center, a more candid statement could not be said.
Child abuse is a crime of secrecy, but it exists in all communities, including ours. One in four children will witness or experience a traumatic event by the age of four. Last year, 96 children were interviewed at our Center due to concerns about child abuse. A total of 451 children and their family members sought out our free trauma-focused services that included providing 1,160 individual and 56 group therapy sessions The data is alarming and local. These statistics represent a journey of healing that began with the courage of one child that came to our Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in distress, and how our services help to shed light on the truth.
In less than a decade, the number of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in the Mountain State has grown to 20 supported by a network of intrepid professionals, under the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network umbrella, who recognize that traumatized children are best served through a coordinated, evidence-based, child-focused approach.
Prior to the Child Advocacy Center movement, child victims were often asked to recount the intimate details of painful episodes of abuse time after time for police, medical professionals, and social workers. Though these dedicated professionals all wished to aid the suffering child, the process meant to protect children often further victimized them.
Child victims needed a child-friendly place, an approach designed to minimize trauma, and one person they could trust to share the burden.
We work in tandem with a multidisciplinary team of professionals to ensure that each child has the opportunity to disclose with dignity, attain justice, and most importantly, heal with support, love, and encouragement. The team includes law enforcement, prosecutors, child protective services, mental health and medical professionals, educators, and victim advocates. Now, when there is concern that a child in Monongalia County has been abused or exposed to violence they have the option to be interviewed at our Center using a specialized approach. Our trained mental health professionals interview children while the investigative team observes from another room. The multidisciplinary team can communicate with the interviewer through an earpiece to make sure that their questions are asked. This process ensures that the child is only asked to recount the details of a traumatic event once. After the interview, the team decides on a plan of action devised to best support the child and the family.
To best serve children and families in Monongalia County, the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center offers free services including: case management, clinical evaluations, community education, forensic interviews, linkage/ referral services, individual and group therapy, parenting classes, non-offending caregiver support, prevention programs, victim support and advocacy, and school-based services.
All children deserve the opportunity to thrive in a safe environment in which they can reach their full potential. At the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center, we’re working each day to ensure that children in our community are given that opportunity. When the truth hurts, our small but mighty staff is dedicated to ensuring that victims become children again.
This summer, we’re asking our community to help us help kids and families in Monongalia County by participating in our Be a Hero for Kids 5K on August 26, 2017 at the Star City Marina. The Be a Hero for Kids 5K will feature a timed 5K race for all levels of runners, a 1 mile fun run, and engaging activities for families and children of all ages! Come dressed as your favorite superhero and support a local organization working each day to keep kids and families in our community safe, happy, and healthy. All proceeds will directly support our work with child victims and families in Monongalia County. To register for the race, please visit raceentry.com