Children#039;s Advocacy members receive training

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2001

Six members from the Butler County Multi-Disciplinary Team, which meets weekly at the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) recently had the opportunity, after a nationwide effort, to attend the National Children's Advocacy Center Academy, held in Huntsville, Ala.

"The training we received in Huntsville last week helped us to strengthen the impact our multi-disciplinary team can have on child-related crimes, and the care and treatment of the victims of child sexual abuse in Butler County," said Kathy Smyth, executive director of the Butler County Children's Advocacy Center.

Smyth said proof of the presence of the Center came to light during the recent court case where Earl Whiddon, a resident of McKenzie was convicted and sentenced on sexually related crimes involving a juvenile.

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"Our teamwork approach showed exceptional success in child-related crime, from the beginning stages of initial contact with the victim, through every discipline involved, leading up to and including prosecution of the offender," Smyth said. "Every single discipline was necessary to bring Whiddon to justice."

Chief Deputy Kenny Harden, a member of the CAC board and one of those in attendance at the academy sessions, said the payback came to him like he never expected.

"A child victim in a case the center worked on resulting in conviction of the offender, recently came back to Butler County for a visit (the victim and her family had moved out of state following the completion of the case) – she would not let her parents leave Butler County until they brought her to the Butler County Sheriff's Office, where she came to hug my neck," Harden said. "It was a very emotional moment, and one that I will never forget, but it was that moment that made all the center's work worthwhile to me."

Smyth said one thing the group was able to do was to develop a multi-disciplinary mission statement.

"There are certain goals that must be met by a multi-disciplinary team," Smyth said, explaining, "a multi-disciplinary team is one that involves assistance from all walks of life needed to help the child who is a victim of crime n from social workers and counselors, to nurses and doctors, to law enforcement officers, prosecutors and CAC staff n basically everyone involved in the case working together as a team.

"Another aspect of the course assisted those at the session in learning ways to increase efficiency of the team, while reducing the possibility of duplication of services that could cause an emotional impact on the child victim," Smyth said.

Tammy Gaston, a member of the CAC Team and Victim Services Officer for Butler County, spoke about the knowledge the team learned at the conference regarding smaller towns.

"We were able to learn from other members from around the country that there are certain aspects of a small town that we have to deal with in unique ways," Gaston said. "Being able to recognize our limitations, and also when we need to seek additional expert involvement and resources."

Smyth said the group also learned of ways to work on improving the team's ability to work together.

"We learned ways to increase the multi-disciplinary group's ability to talk openly among other team members," Smyth said.

Smyth did say, however that she was extremely proud of the Butler County group's progress through the course.

"We had several accomplishments from our center that other, bigger teams from all around the country did no have," she said. "The training was very intensive and trying at times for us emotionally, but it was very enriching and encouraging to find that many of the areas we were concerned with are commonly shared by other teams."

Smyth said full membership in the National Children's Alliance has great advantages to be seen at the local level.

"By achieving full membership status' to the National Children's Alliance, we will then be eligible to apply for further training and development grant opportunities," Smyth said. "And that way, we can become a better resource to our clients, the children of Butler County who fall victim to various types of child-related crimes."