The focus of the Justice for Children Advocacy Center is to alleviate the stress that trauma has on a child who has been a victim of abuse.
In 1992 Genesee Justice, a department of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, helped establish a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) to serve the unique needs of children in Genesee and Wyoming counties alleged to have been physically or sexually abused. In 1998, the Justice for Children Advocacy Center (JFCAC) was opened at 108 Bank St., Batavia. This past April, a satellite office was opened in Albion.
On May 10, another satellite office was opened at 31 Duncan St., Warsaw, to better serve the residents of Wyoming County. The office provides a child-friendly atmosphere for interviews, counseling and advocacy services. The center services children from birth to 18 years old and their non-offending family members, with all services free of charge.
The MDT seeks to reduce the incidence of child sexual and physical abuse, minimize trauma to alleged child victims, and promote healing for victims and their families. They do so by collaborating with a variety of professionals to provides services at a single facility. Not only are the MDTs best for the kids, they are also good for those in the profession of helping the children.
“Having the ongoing support is important to the whole team,” said program coordinator Theresa Asmus-Roth. “It helps maintain continuity throughout the whole process. We’ve been working on this since the summer of 2016. Multiple disciplinary members have been very supportive of this venture.”
The facility is totally self-funded through grants. One of the largest contributors is from the Office of Victim Services, Asmus-Roth says.
In 2003, Livingston and Orleans Counties began using JFCAC services consistently making it a regional child advocacy center. Since 1998, approximately 2,200 children have received services at the JFCAC, 241 in 2015. Services include medical exams, forensic interviews, therapy, and victim advocacy for children from Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming (GLOW) counties.
“We try to make this a safe space for children to maintain a level of comfort for the child. While the center focuses on the children, advocates and counselors work with the parents as well.”
Officials say some of the issues parents may face with a child suffering at the hands of abuse is that the child may act out and become difficult to deal with. Working with the parents or guardians helps them strike a balance with the trauma and discipline.
“Parents need to maintain the same type of parenting after the trauma so the child does not begin to think they have a pass. And parents need to be able to recognize that as well.”
However, parents are not involved in interview process. While there are several reasons, at the forefront, they can be deemed as a witness to the incident and their involvement in the interview may harm future court proceedings. Also, while some parents and their kids may have really good relationships, the child may not say anything if a parent is there with them.
While the center relies on grants to fund the program, it also accepts donations, Asmus-Roth says.
“Gift cards are the best – food, clothing, fuel, even restaurants. Sometimes a family just simply needs a break and do something good and fun to shift the focus off the trauma.”
To make a donation via mail, send to 304 E. Main St., Batavia 14020. The donation can be specified for a specific office.
Currently, the Warsaw office is open Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment only.
For more information click here or call (585) 344-8576.