Child Advocacy Center coming to Whiteville

October 29, 2019

In January 2020, Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina plans to officially open the doors of a Child Advocacy Center in Whiteville.

B&GH President Gary Faircloth indicated the Child Advocacy Center is a significant programmatic initiative.

“I think since the founding of B&GH with a charter in 1954, this may be the next greatest initiative that we’ve taken,” said Faircloth. “This county has needed this for a long time. I am so happy to have that started.”

District Attorney Jon David said, “I am very excited to welcome the Child Advocacy Center to our area. I am fortunate to have worked closely with child advocacy centers in other counties and I know of their tremendous value to improve outcomes and bring justice to difficult matters. I am certain they will make an immediate and positive impact on some of the biggest cases that my office prosecutes.”

The CAC will use a multidisciplinary team (MDT) model across multiple agencies with expertise in the investigation of child abuse and neglect allegations. The team will develop a coordinated response for the victims and the community that is designed to enhance safety, to hold perpetrators accountable and to get justice for youth victims.

 “The Center will provide services to child victims of abuse or neglect in a safe, child-friendly environment,” said Faircloth. “These services will be provided by medical professionals, law enforcement officers, mental health providers, prosecutors, child protective services workers, victim advocates, and other professionals working together in the best interest of the child. The team approach helps the child through the legal system in a way designed not to cause additional trauma in one of the most difficult times in the child’s life.”

There are approximately 750 Child Advocacy Centers nationally with a little more than 45 in North Carolina. This is not a home for children, but a program that will provide support, education and family centered services for child victims and their non-offending caregiver in Columbus and Bladen County. It is a service that has been needed in the community for a long time according to CAC Director Jasmine Patrick.

“We’re sending children from our community to Chapel Hill, Greenville, and other CACs around the state to have a child forensic interview and child medical examination,” said Patrick. “Most of the time, children have to wait six to eight weeks to receive those services due to the high demand. This delays the healing process that our children deserve and need. It also opens the possibility of additional abuse or other children being victimized by the same perpetrator. We want to serve the children of our community and promote justice to hold offenders accountable for their hideous actions toward children.”

To meet those needs, the CAC will have forensic interviewers specially trained to conduct child forensic interviews, child and family advocates, licensed child medical providers, and trauma informed therapists on staff.

“If the child is already receiving therapy outside of our program with another therapist, we aren’t going to take them away from that,” Patrick said. “Children who have been victimized have a difficult time trusting others, including therapists. Once rapport has been built and trust established between a child and therapist, it is best to continue the process. Our center will work with the child’s current therapist to ensure wraparound services are being provided. For those children who are not currently involved in therapy, our therapist can start services immediately after the child’s initial visit to our center.”

The ultimate goal of the process is to provide healing for the child while also holding the perpetrator accountable.

The strength of the CAC comes from the collaborative support.

“We have a lot of community members who believe in this,” said Patrick. “It’s not just a B&GH program. This is Columbus and Bladen Counties’ program, our communities’ program. We wouldn’t be able to do it without our multi-disciplinary team members from law enforcement, DSS, the DA’s office, Families First, and all the other agencies that are working together to make this program successful. The MDT members came together last week to train under the direction of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina. It was exciting to see our team begin the process of team building and education to fill this critical gap in service. Children in our community deserve it. This will be one of the biggest partnerships and forces for good our community has ever seen.”

About Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina

Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Inc., has been helping children since 1954. Since then, more than 7,500 children have benefitted from the services of the not-for-profit, 501(c)3 agency. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive array of services for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other family dysfunction. B&GH offers adoption, family and therapeutic foster care, free children’s therapy, as well as residential care on the campus at Lake Waccamaw. The campus features a SACS-accredited school with a middle and high school curriculum, vocational education, recreation facilities, farm, chapel and cottage life. As many as 320 vulnerable children are cared for through the residential, community-based services, and school program provided by B&GH at any given time. B&GH operates its program, services and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws. B&GH is nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation.