As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.
The Child Advocacy Center was established in 2006, when Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services recognized the need for a safe space for victimized children, where the child would be interviewed only once by a forensic interviewer and not by multiple agencies. The Center is 97% grant -funded and is under the agency of The Victims Assistance Center.
The CAC houses interview rooms, a medical examination room, a waiting room with stuffed animals, toys, age-appropriate movies on the TV and warm, inviting colors. Most important of the rooms in the CAC is the room where all the agencies involved in the case can gather to review the interview. In that room, the walls are lined with laptops and headphones. This is the reason the Center was established. One interview. One Interviewer.
Watertown is the Main Hub for the CAC, but they also have two satellite offices, one in Lewis and another in St. Lawrence county. As well as, two 33-foot-long Winnebago’s outfitted with victim intake capabilities that travel to destinations in rural Lewis and St. Lawrence counties when travel is difficult for the victims.
Of the cases the CAC manages:
- 95% Sexual Abuse
- 5% Physical Abuse/Witnesses of Traumatic Event
Of the children served in 2019:
- Jefferson: 397
- St. Lawrence: 279
- Lewis: 90
- 0-6: 234
- 7-12: 292
- 13+: 240
St. John’s Episcopal Church of Cape Vincent has been a blessing to the children of CAC.
In 2018, St. John’s wanted to make the rectory a Safe House but requirements such as 24-hour police accessibility were not attainable. So, they sold the house and the funds were allocated to the Child Advocacy Center. The center used $25000 of the allocation in 2018 to update their offices with contemporary equipment, furnishings and technology. The remainder of the funds were to be contracted in the amount of $5000 over the course of four years. In 2019, the CAC used the first $5000 to purchase all new furniture to outfit their site. This year, they are testing the theory of digitizing documents, and using iPads in the field, so CAC Advocates and the agencies they work with can quickly sign and release critical and time-sensitive materials.
But St. John’s support is not just financial.
An exuberant woman by the name of Charlie Fix, a retired Fort Drum Public Health Nurse and member of St. John’s, first introduced me to the CAC – St. John’s connection during a French Festival Committee meeting I attended in January. She talked about how not only did one of the CAC Winnebago’s participate as a float in the parade but also joined forces to provide a Comfort Station for festival goers.
I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about St. John’s involvement. Charlie set up a meeting for me with Amy, the CAC Program Director, Priest Lisa of St. John’s, and Therapy Dog Emelia, at the Watertown office.
Amy has been with the CAC since its inception. First as an Advocate (an Advocate works directly with the non-offending family members of the victim), then as Coordinator, and now in her present position. She is also the lucky soul that gets to take home the beautiful golden Emelia each night at the end of the workday.
Amy was more than happy to discuss the support St. John’s provides the children that enter the doors of the CAC. In the Waiting Room, along the mantle, are a row of stuffed bunnies. The bunnies are made by a woman in Cape Vincent. Before the bunnies are transported to Watertown, Priest Lisa blesses them. When a child is interviewed, they are given one of St. John’s blessed bunnies for comfort. When the interview is over, the child can take the bunny with them to continue to be consoled.
St. John’s regularly donates much needed blankets. Some are made (knitted, sewn), some new, others gently used – which are given to the child, like the bunnies, to hold and take with them for comfort. They also supply snacks for the Waiting Room to keep the waiting child engaged and nourished.
At the beginning of the school year, backpacks are prepared with school supplies for those children in need. And, when a child comes into the CAC with few personal items, Amy lets St. John’s know and the clothing and donations flow in abundant.
St. John’s does not just provide indispensable care and donations to the children. Recently, when the staff of the CAC had endured a couple grueling months a harrowing, sometimes unresolved cases, the emotional toll was evident. To help boost morale St. John’s hosted a luncheon to remind them that they are worthy, supported and the job that they provide is vital.
The CAC and St. John’s will work together again this summer for the 52nd Annual French Festival, entering one of their Winnebago’s in the parade, providing a Comfort Station for Festival goers, and offering the public insight into what an important program the Child Advocacy Center is for the victims of abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month