Child & Youth Advocacy Center Opens Office In Marlinton
Marlinton, WV – The Child and Youth Advocacy Center, based in Lewisburg, opened up a satellite office this summer at the Snowshoe Career Center in Marlinton. Vista volunteer Kat Thompson is the center representative at the Marlinton office. She says their new home is a much better setting for the sensitive work that they do.
“Before we had really set everything up, I actually had to sit in on a series of interviews that we did in the Sheriffs’ office ” says Thompson. “We just had such a hard time finding a place to put the family, and we had to interview the children in one of the interrogation rooms; it was probably about as far away from child friendly’ as you could get.”
The CYAC primarily works with abused or neglected children conducting forensic interviews to gather information that can be used in court. The move to the Career center allows those interviews to be conducted in a less threatening environment.
“It’s actually a pretty great set up” says Thompson “we have an interview room where we talk to the kids, then we a smaller conference room where I’m usually there watching and taking notes and operating the [recording] equipment.”
“It’s this tiny little camera in the corner of the interview room and we have audio that accompanies it.”
Because the forensic equipment couldn’t be physically removed from the Sheriffs’ department, the CYAC had to buy new equipment. In July the Pocahontas County Commission gave the center a contribution towards the purchase of the camera and necessary software. Jerry Ramos of ABCommunications matched the Commissions contribution and installed the equipment and software.
Thompson says the interviews are stored on a larger database and can be retrieved. This means a child can avoid having to face their abuser in court.
“Plus it’s video recorded so there’s not going to be any dispute over what was said or what was disclosed” she says.
Unfortunately, Thompson says the need for their services is going up.
“West Virginia is actually one of the worst states in the country in terms of child abuse, neglect and domestic battery” she says. “And Pocahontas County is particularly bad in itself which I think a lot of people would be surprised to discover, because it’s not an overtly visible issue. But when you work in this line of service, you definitely see some worst of the worst.”
She says what they most often see in the county are cases of sexual abuse, followed closely by physical abuse and neglect.
“I think a lot of it springs from poverty and just kind of bad situational circumstances; people really not knowing better or feeling kind of desperate and destitute in their current situation.” she says.
Thompson says she’s usually in the office every day 9 – 5pm and is also on call. The grant funding for her position is good for at least a year. She says CYAC co-director Monica Accord hopes to be able to keep the office going after the grant expires. Anyone interested in volunteering with CYAC can contact Kat Thompson at 304-799-2509.