Dove House has two full-time Victim Advocates on staff who work with client families, assisting them through the investigation process as well as the court process, providing emotional support and making appropriate referrals. Each child / family is greeted by the Victim Advocate assigned to their case at the front door when they arrive at Dove House. As the interview with the child victim is taking place, our Victim Advocate uses this time to get to know the parent/guardian and makes an assessment of the overall needs of the family.
She assists the child and family through the investigation process as well as the court process, providing emotional support and assisting with counseling referrals. Encouraging and referring child victims and non-offending family members to follow through with appropriate counseling services is an integral part of our Victim Advocates’ job. Our Victim Advocates work with many of our client families for up to a three year period.
Our Victim Advocates constantly receive training that enhances their skills and knowledge, enabling them to be highly effective in helping our families with a variety of needs.
The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) concept requires that a multidisciplinary team (MDT), (consisting of all community agencies and organizations that need to interview or interact with the child victim and non-offending family members) coordinate and conduct all of their intervention and investigation activities with the child at the child-friendly CAC facility. This concept allows the child to share their story without the experience of dragging that child to multiple locations, for multiple interviews, with multiple people.
Dove House’s MDT consists of the six law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction in Iredell and Alexander Counties, the NC 22A Judicial District Attorney’s office, the Departments of Social Services in both Iredell and Alexander Counties, Guardian ad Litem program for both counties, medical and mental health personnel, and the Dove House staff. Since Dove House opened in September 2002, our (MDT) has operated under a jointly-developed Protocol in response to reports of child sexual abuse in Iredell County. In August 2005, we began also serving Alexander County.
Appropriate (jurisdictional) members of our MDT are gathered at Dove House each time a new report of child sexual abuse is received. The child is interviewed at Dove House by our trained Forensic Interviewer, while the MDT observes the interview via closed-circuit TV. It is really a “team” interview, as the MDT has communication capability, through an earpiece, with the Forensic Interviewer, so that all disciplines’ requirements are met. Every interview is video recorded; the DVD recording is available to be used in court if the case eventually goes to trial.
Our MDT meets bi-weekly to review all open Dove House cases. These meetings keep all the team members informed about new information on each case and allows the team to update their strategic direction on each case. The information on each case shared across all disciplines represented on the MDT helps to reduce the amount of times family members’ lives are disrupted by the investigation, since all team members are informed about what information has already been obtained. Our case review meetings also ensure that no case, therefore no child, “falls through the cracks.” Our MDT also receives continuing training about the multidisciplinary approach and other topics pertinent to addressing all aspects of a child sexual abuse intervention / investigation.
Beyond the obvious and significant benefits of reducing trauma to child victims and their non-offending family members, the CAC multidisciplinary approach has also been proven to enhance prosecution against perpetrators. Experiencing a less than 20% successful prosecution rate prior to Dove House’s existence, we are happy to report that we are now achieving about a 86% successful prosecution rate! This is a direct result and benefit of the team approach through the multidisciplinary process of Children’s Advocacy Centers!
A forensic interview is a neutral, fact-finding interview that is legally defensible in court. The Dove House Forensic Interviewer is a highly trained professional who interviews children to help authorities and partner agencies determine if they have been sexually abused. In addition to yielding information on whether abuse has occurred, this approach produces evidence that will stand up in court if the investigation leads to criminal prosecution. Forensic interviews are legally sound because they ensure the interviewer’s objectivity, employ non-leading techniques, and emphasize accurate documentation of the interview via video recording.
All child victims who are developmentally capable (typically starting at age 3) are interviewed by the Forensic Interviewer on the Dove House staff. This interview is video recorded. Our Forensic Interviewer has had formal training at “The Childhood Trust” in Cincinnati, Ohio and completes extensive ongoing training each year to keep her skills current.
All interviews are observed in our MDT Team Room via closed circuit TV by the assembled MDT (multi-disciplinary team) members involved in each particular case.The MDT has the capability, via walkie-talkie to an earpiece worn by the Interviewer, to communicate with the Interviewer should the need arise during the course of the interview. The purpose of the interview is to gather information that will help determine if a crime has occurred, and if a disclosure is made, then to obtain the true and factual details of alleged crimes, while maintaining the dignity and well being of each child. Although the child must eventually testify in court if the case goes to trial, video recording allows the jury to view the child at his/her age and developmental level at the time of the alleged incident or disclosure, and lends credibility to disclosures made through the forensic process.
Dove House has a fully equipped, child-friendly medical examination room that is staffed by volunteers and physicians. These physicians are certified in conducting pediatric sexual assault exams. All of our medical providers volunteer much of their personal time working with Dove House clients. Medical examinations of our child clients include a full wellness exam, testing for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) when appropriate, and specific exam techniques for alleged sexual assault.
Our exam room is fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology for efficient and effective collection of physical and photographic forensic evidence.
All of our medical providers are available to testify in court when necessary. What an incredible blessing it is to be able to treat children in our child-friendly medical exam room rather than having to send them to a clinical (hospital) environment!
Mental Health Counseling
Dove House Children’s Advocacy Center currently provides children and families an onsite mental health counselor through a collaborative grant and agreement with Children's Hope Alliance, one of our many agency partners. The counselor provides specialized trauma-focused mental health services, designed to meet the unique needs of children and their non-offending family members.
In addition, we have linkage agreements with other mental health counseling agencies so we can refer families to other mental health counselors in hopes of beginning the healing process.
Safety First Program
Safety First is a program offered by Dove House that focuses on body safety and autonomy. It teaches children that they have the right to control what happens to their own bodies and must speak up and talk to a safe adult if they feel uncomfortable or threatened in any situation. Safety First also highlights The Bathing Suit rule, which teaches children the importance of keeping body parts that are covered by bathing suits private and safe. In the 5thgrade curriculum, Safety First also teaches the importance of internet safety, specifically protecting ourselves from predators and cyber bullies.
Safety First was implemented into the Iredell Statesville school system in 2016 and has since been added to Mooresville Graded and Alexander County Schools. Safety First consists of 2, 45-minute sessions per school year and targets 1stand 5thgrades. Dove House is honored to have the opportunity to offer this program to the children in our community in hopes of preventing some of the abuse we encounter at our center.