To protect the children in our community by providing an interdisciplinary approach to improve early detection, intervention, joint investigation, and successful prosecution of child abuse cases; coordinate resources and facilitate treatment for child victims and their families; and conduct community education regarding the prevention of child abuse.
Since March of 2000, Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center has transformed the lives of victims of child abuse by offering a refuge for children and their families to cope with the terrible crimes of child abuse while reducing the fear and further trauma that its report and investigation often creates.
CAC operates on the fundamental belief that the best interests of the child victim should be protected. Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) provides a compassionate alternative to traditional investigations. Designed especially for kids, our CAC brings all necessary services for child abuse cases together in one location. This is done by supporting and coordinating the efforts of child abuse professionals. The integration of the different disciplines involved in the child protection system at the CAC enable child abuse cases to be more thoroughly investigated. CAC provides a single point of contact for child abuse victims and their families to access services such as forensic interviews, medical evaluations, mental health counseling and victim advocacy support.
Everyday we get the cases called into the Florida Abuse Registry (1-800-96-ABUSE) delivered to us by DCF. At 9:00am every morning we staff those cases with our multidisciplinary team which is made up of law enforcement, State Attorney, Child Protection Team, Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Department of Children and Families, Kid’s Court Program, and mental health counselors. It is during this time that we make a decision as a group what type of services should be provided to the child and his or her family. Those services could be a forensic interview, a forensic medical exam, or some type of law enforcement action. Once we decide what types of services are going to be provided initially we ask DCF or the law enforcement agency handling the case to make a referral to the agency providing the service which is usually the Child Protection Team. A week later once the initial services have been completed we bring all of the agencies involved in the case back to the table to discuss the case so that we can ensure that the child and their family received all of the services they needed to move on with their life. There are times that we provide more services after we discuss the case like Kid’s Court, financial aid, mental health treatment, crisis counseling, or we refer them to one of our many community partners.
In the past before CAC’s were created law enforcement would be called and respond to the scene where they would interview the child. This was bad because they were often times asked questions that were leading which caused the case to be thrown out once it got to court. That is why we have the Child Protection Team to do the forensic interviews. They are specifically trained to ask the appropriate questions and can testify in court as experts, where as law enforcement can not. After law enforcement got through with the child they would then be taken to the local hospital where an ER physician would complete an initial forensic medical exam. The problem here is that most ER doctors don’t have any specific training in the areas of child abuse and would often miss things needed to make a good criminal case. That is why we have Child Protect Team Doctors that now do are exams. They have to be pediatricians with specific training in child physical abuse and sexual abuse. After the hospital would get done the child would then be taken to the local DCF or HRS office and interviewed again. Once they were through being interviewed by DCF or HRS they were usually sent home where they would be contact over the next several weeks by various different people concerning the case. CAC’s allow for the child to be brought to one location to be interviewed, examined, and to be provided various types of service without having to be dragged from place to place. The CAC is designed to be a warm home type of place for the children and their families to come to. Now instead of having to do multiple interviews we only have to do one that is conducted by CPT and observed by all of the other agencies involved in the case. Essentially we are killing several birds with one stone. The medical exams are also conducted onsite so the child can complete their interview and then be examined all in the same day and within minutes of each other. The CAC is very private and supporting and never judgmental. We never allow the perpetrator to come into the CAC unless we don’t know about it. If at anytime we determine that the perpetrator was the one who brought the child to the CAC we escort them immediately off of the property.
Executive Director~Lori Allen
Child Protection Team, Medical Director~Dr. James Mitchell
Child Protection Team, Team Coordinator~Christi Bazemore
Sexual Abuse Treatment, Program Coordinator~Laura Hamm
Family Advocacy/Kid's Court Program~Lizabeth Berry & Kristi Warren
Executive Assistant~Faith Goodman
Family Support Specialists~Gail Bradberry & Morgan Mitchell
Child Protection Team Case Coordinators~Assistant Team Coordinator-Angie Griffin, Senior Case Coordinator-Monique Gorman, Luann Dean, Shandrell Poole, Stacey Taggart, Shawna Peterson, Rachelle McKee
Child Protection Team~Janet Fitzpatrick
Child Protection Team Independent Contractors~Dr. Julian Salinas, Dr. Richard Goff, Dr. Lisa Bailey
Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Therapist~Tasha Jackson
Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Case Manager~Pamela Burnam
Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Independent Contract Therapy~Karen Laymon & Dallas Finch