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Child Advocacy Center Holds Open House

By Staff | Feb 15, 2017

Photo by Chad Turner From left, back row, are Susan Scharf, Executive Director; Danielle Ice - Davis, Board member; Cynthia Durig, Board Member; Brandi Murray, Family Advocate. From left, front row, are Cathy Amos, Katrina Byers, Dot Sprouse, Judy Yeager (all Board Members). This photo consists of 6 of 8 Board Members and The Lighthouse CAC Staff.

The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center, located in Paden City, held an open house Feb. 7 for anyone interested in learning about how the CAC helps with children who have faced abuse in their lives. Several guests made an appearance and were given a tour of the facility which is designed to be aesthetic to children.

The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center, located at 102 West Main Street in Paden City, is dedicated to meeting the needs of children and families by providing a communal, child-focused center that facilitates a compassionate approach to the prevention, identification, investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse.

The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center is part of a Multi-Disciplinary team (one for Wetzel, one for Tyler) that is comprised of law enforcement, child protective services, prosecutors, medical professionals, mental health doctors, and victim advocates. A Multi-Disciplinary Team is a group of professionals from specific and distinct disciplines that collaborate from the beginning of the report and work together throughout a child and family’s involvement with the center. The Multi-Disciplinary Team approach facilitates efficient inter-agency communication and sharing of information in support of the children and families.

The Lighthouse Advocacy Center was established in in 2008 and is one of 20 centers in West Virginia and one of 800 in the country. The center is an active member of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network and became an accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance. Staff members of The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center are Executive Director Susan Scharf and Family Advocate Brandi Murray. The duo are governed by an experienced Board of Directors.

Both Scharf and Murray have been trained by the ChildFirst WV Training program to become Forensic Interviewers. Forensic interviewing of suspected child abuse victims is a specialized skill. The interviews of most children involve allegations of sexual abuse, domestic violence, or other serious crimes where the child is a victim or witness. Forensic interviews can provide critical evidence for both criminal child abuse investigations and civil child protection proceedings. The information gathered from these interviews is critical in assisting professionals who assess the risk and safety needs of children and families and facilitate case management decisions. It may also lead to the identification of other victims or offenders.

Photos by Chad Turner From left, back row, are Susan Scharf, Executive Director; Donnie Harris, NMPD and Board Member; Leslie Elliott, Victim Advocate at the Wetzel Co. Prosecutor’s Office; Terry Long, Investigator at the Wetzel County Prosecutor’s Office; Mary Jo Guidi, Regional Coordinator for Senator Joe Manchin’s Office; Brandi Murray, Family Advocate. From left, front row, are Terri Tyler, Executive Director of the Wetzel Co. Solid Waste Authority; Debbie Bennett, Manager at WVNCC; Susan Harrison, Executive Director of CASA; Becky Hayes. This photo is just a sampling of those who attended the Open House.

The interviews are performed in an open child-friendly room that will be monitored by state police and child protection case workers. The room is designed to make children feel safe so they will be more likely to open up and describe the offenses they’ve been subject to. Each interview is recorded and given to proper authorities such as doctors, police, and case workers so that the child does not have to constantly explain themselves. This will also help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of the child to begin the healing process. It is reported that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Ninety percent of abuse cases involve someone that is known to the victim. Child advocacy centers are doing all they can to help these abused children.

Anyone wanting more information on the Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center can visit the CAC website at “http://www.thelighthousecac.org”>www.thelighthousecac.org. The center can also be reached by calling 304-337-2120.