By: Tom DotyTimes Columnist
December 19, 2012
Julia Roberts Goad
Mingo County children who have been abused or are at risk of abuse and neglect will benefit from a partnership between the Logan County Child Advocacy Center and the Mingo County Investigative Team.
On Dec. 18, the Mingo Team signed a partnership agreement with the Logan Center that paves the way for increased services from the Logan center for the children of Mingo County.
Under the agreement the Logan center will provide services and support for the Mingo Team in their ongoing work to investigate and prosecute crimes against children in Mingo County.
Beth Cook, the Director for the Logan Center, explained that under state law, there must be an investigative team in each county, made up of members of police agencies, social services and most importantly, the county prosecutor’s office, which is the head of the team.
The Child Advocacy Center offers services such as forensic interviews with children, specialized investigative services, mental health services and family support as well as tracking cases.
“We will be tracking each case,” Cook told the Daily News. “We will be able to give Mingo the status of their cases, any action that has taken place.”
Medina Mahon, family advocate for the Logan County Child Advocacy Center, said Logan County chapter was formed at the request of Judge Roger Perry. They found the social service and the criminal justice systems at the time were not working together in an effective manner. This common problem added to the children’s emotional distress, and created a segmented, repetitious, and often frightening experience for the child victims.
With the new system in place, Mahon said the victims are interviewed by less people, but more information is gathered and recorded, lessening the trauma on the child. She said they encourage law enforcement to be involved in the process.
Police officers are normally located in a different room from where the child is being interviewed, but they can witness and hear the entire process.
Although Mingo County’s team has been providing services, Logan’s Child Advocate office is an older and more advanced operation, Cook said. Older child advocacy centers often help newer offices to develop,
“We are very child-friendly,” Cook said. “We have a bright, colorful facility, with toys everywhere, kids feel safe here. We hope to help Mingo develop a similar place.”
At least half of the children who have received services in Logan County are actually from Mingo, she said.
“We are very close, we have the same population, the same problems,” Cook said. “It is natural for us to partner with Mingo County.”
Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks named Teresa Maynard, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, to head the Mingo Investigative Team.
“I am really excited, and looking forward to providing better services to children in Mingo County,” Maynard said. “Our ultimate goal is to have an independent facility in the county, but for now this arrangement will work out well. The kids and families will be the ones who benefit the most from this partnership.”
Cook said the increased support for those working with at risk and abused children is important.
“People who work in child abuse have a very hard job,” Cook said. “Everyone needs to support the people who are protecting our children.”