Kay Herron, left, Mary McCaskill, Cheryl Boyd and Mercedes Cass fold quilts that will be given to children that are victim of child abuse or sexual abuse that come to the Children’s Advocacy Center for on-site exams. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Hazel Maxey, left, Dionne Walton and Tequlia Everett organize pouches that contain personal hygiene products for children that are placed in emergency foster care through the Department of Human Services. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
The Children’s Advocacy Center is now operating its medical facility, where victims of child abuse and child sexual abuse can be examined. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Thanks to a group of local women, children who are the victims of child abuse or child sexual abuse are given quilts when they go to the Children’s Advocacy Center for an examination.
Last week, members of the Jefferson County Quilter’s Guild dropped off nine quilts at the center, which is located in the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center.
“We like to make quilts and this gives us an opportunity to do something for other people, an opportunity to share,” Mary McCaskil, a member of the guild said.
She said the delivery was the second to the center, and on average, it takes “a couple of days” to make a quilt.
McCaskil said the Quilter’s Guild meets the second and fourth Monday and the fourth Thursday of each month in the Fellowship Hall of Green Meadows Baptist Church and invited anyone interested in quilting to attend a meting.
Christa Menotti, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center, said the quilts are “child friendly, and have patterns kids like.”
Comparing the quilts to a “security blanket,” Menotti said they are given to children when they come in for a medical exam, and the child takes the quilt home with them when they leave.
“It’s just a way of letting them know we’re here, we care about them, and we’re going to be there for them,” she said.
Before the center got its medical facility back into operation earlier this year, children under the age of 18 that were the victims of child abuse or sexual abuse that had been taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center for an exam were transferred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital at Little Rock if it was an emergency, and if not an emergency, given an appointment at a facility in Little Rock comparable to the Children’s Advocacy Center.
“We’ve been averaging about six medical exams a month but so far in November, we’ve done 10 and we have three more scheduled,” Menotti said.
In addition to medical facilities, the center has two interview rooms set up, one for young children, the second for teenagers, a set-up Menotti described earlier this year as “child friendly.
“It’s not like being interviewed in a police station,” she said.
The victims are interviewed by an investigator who has received specialized training, called forensic interviewing, which teaches them how to determine if a victim has been coached, for example, if the abuser is a member of the family.
The set-up also allows representatives of law enforcement agencies, the prosecutor’s office and the Department of Human Services to watch the interview through a one-way glass while it’s being conducted, and to direct questions to the interviewer, who is wearing an earpiece.
Also last week, the center presented 60 colorful pouches containing hygiene products to DHS as a way of saying thank you for the help.
Dionne Walton, the county supervisor for DHS, said the pouches would be given to children who are placed in emergency foster care.
“It’s something to get them started,” she said, adding that in some cases, when children are removed from a home, they have only the clothes on their back.
Walton said the agency removes an average of two children per week in Jefferson County after investigating reports of abuse or neglect received through the department’s hot line.
“We have to determine if it’s safe for the child to stay in the home or we have to remove them immediately because there’s no other option for their safety,” she said.
Menotti said the center conducted a fundraiser to pay for the bags, 30 for boys and 30 for girls, and said she hoped they would last DHS “through the holidays.”
“When I first started here, one of my first goals was to improve the relationships with other the other agencies we deal with,” said Menotti, who took over as executive director in March after 10 years with the Victim Witness Division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
“Those bags are going to help the children and hopefully help us create a better relationship with DHS,” she said.
The Children’s Advocacy Center, a non-profit agency, receives some funding from the United Way of Southeast Arkansas, and is a member of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas network and the National Children’s Alliance.
Menotti said donations to help them continue their mission to serve children are always appreciated.
For information, contact Menotti at 870-850-7105.