In Wayne County, Indiana, the rate of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 2001 exceeded the state average, with the number of reports of child abuse rising 35% from 2000 to 2001. Additionally, Wayne County saw three child fatalities in 2001 due to abuse and neglect. This state of affairs for Wayne County children was the impetus behind the formation of a task force in 2002 to explore the creation of a children’s advocacy center to change these regrettable and unacceptable statistics. 501(c)(3) status was awarded to The Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center, Inc. in April 2003. The mission and purpose of the Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center is the prevention and prosecution of child abuse.
Child abuse reports flood the child welfare system with cases needing the attention of police, doctors, therapists and prosecutors alike. Child victims pass from one agency to another, forced to re-tell and thus re-live their horror stories time and time again. Wandering through an endless maze of separate agencies and fragmented services, abused children and their families find themselves re-victimized in a tangled web of bureaucracy.
JACY (Justice and Advocacy Center for Youth) House, a program of The Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center, was created to meet the needs of abused children and their families in a warm, non-threatening environment with a single, comprehensive investigative interview. The center strives to reduce the trauma to the child caused by multiple interviews, while improving the quality of evidence gathered to quickly and efficiently resolve cases through the use of a multidisciplinary team and specially trained interviewers.
An indication of our success in creating partnerships is the fact that all of the agencies involved in the investigation of child maltreatment are represented on our board and investigative team…child protection, law enforcement, prosecutors, school counselors, medical and mental health professionals.
The task force created in 2002, which subsequently became the first board of directors, shouldered the responsibility of resource development with a passionate zeal. The board raised $50,500 in corporate/individual donations and local government funds to enable the JACY House to undergo needed renovations and install state-of-the-art audio/video equipment, as well as pay for the executive director’s salary for the first six months. Additionally, the board was able to secure a partnership with Reid Hospital for the use of a home to serve as the child-friendly and comfortable facility for operations. The board not only negotiated the use of the facility for free, but also costs for ongoing maintenance and utility expenses. Hence, there is a noticeable absence of rent, utilities, and building and ground maintenance as expense items in our budget. This auspicious long-term relationship brokered by the board of directors with Reid Hospital provides a strong foundation for a vibrant and well administered children’s advocacy center.
In addition to the donation of a facility by our local hospital, Reid Hospital & Health Care Services, other public support is evident and secure. The Wayne County Department of Child Services and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office offer annual financial support, as well. Clearly, community support for this program is well established. Programs that are developed and managed by a community for a community make a striking impact.
Since JACY House opened its doors in 2003, over 2200 children have been interviewed in a home like setting which produces a non-threatening atmosphere. Anyone who interviews a child has been through the “Child First Indiana” forensic interview training. This is a successful program on how to interview children without increasing the stress to the child.
In 2006, JACY House expanded its service area to include five other counties in Indiana: Fayette, Franklin, Henry, Rush, Union.
JACY House added another program in 2007 which is a body safety program, Speak Up Be Safe (previously “Good Touch, Bad Touch”). This widely known and respected program is taught in all grades in the area’s schools and has reached more than 11,000 children.
In 2012, JACY House added Darkness to Light Stewards of Children to our prevention efforts. Stewards of Children is the only nationally available program proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes, and change child protective behaviors.