Child Advocacy Center director receives ACSO award
Published 12:08 am Thursday, October 23, 2014
NATCHEZ — Glenda Wilson’s mission in life is to prevent child abuse in Natchez.
Wednesday afternoon, the director of the Child’s Advocacy Center at the Natchez Children’s Home Services was recognized for those efforts.
Wilson was presented with the first Adams County Sheriff’s Star Award Wednesday afternoon at the Rotary Club of Natchez’s weekly meeting.
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“I had no idea this was happening,” Wilson said. “This means that as a team, we at the Child’s Advocacy Center have done our jobs to prevent child abuse in our area.”
The CAC opened in 2012 and is only one of 10 such facilities in Mississippi. The center is meant to lessen the trauma children experience once they have been referred to law enforcement or social services for suspected abuse.
The CAC provides its services to Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Claiborne and Wilkinson counties.
NCHS executive director Nancy Hungerford said the center helps reduce the trauma by not putting children through the ordeal of telling their story multiple times at different departments.
Before CACs were created, Hungerford said a child could wind up telling the same story of their traumatic events to more than 10 different people.
The CAC puts a child with one forensic interviewer who questions the child. Two cameras in the interview room, which is designed to feel like a friendly space, record the interview as members of a multidisciplinary team that includes representatives of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, the Children’s Home, Adams County Youth Court and the Court Appointed Special Advocates watch the interview in real time.
“This way, the child is only asked to do one interview,” Wilson said. “What that does is give the child a place where they can come that’s as friendly as possible and tell us what happened.”
The interviews at the CDC are also critical in bringing charges against the perpetrators in those crimes, Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.
“Unlike other cases, such as murder or burglary, there is very little or no physical evidence to go on, and these cases are usually not reported until long after the crime occurred,” Mayfield said. “This team’s work not only stops offenders from committing more crimes of this nature, but also gives victims courage and hope.”
With the help of the CAC, ACSO investigator Michelle Nations and ACSO victims assistance coordinator Karren Ewing, Mayfield said eight sexual crime cases against children have recently been brought to justice.
Four perpetrators of statutory rape and sexual battery have been sentenced to 20 to 30 years per count, one perpetrator of secretly filming a juvenile for lewd purposes received heavy fines and a suspended sentence and three other perpetrators of battery and statutory rape have been indicted and await trail.
“This is a motivated and well-trained team, and it’s our hope that their success will give other victims the courage to come forward because they will have confidence that we will see their cases through to prosecution,” Mayfield said. “This is the most heinous crime committed, and this office will leave no stone unturned in pursuing these offenders.”
The ACSO Star Award is intended to give recognition to those with “outstanding service in supporting and assisting the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in its efforts to protect and preserve the safety of the citizens of Adams County.”