HCCAC provides forensic interviews for children suspected of being sexually/physically abused.
There are approximately 72,520 people who live in Hancock County with 17,226 children. In 2015 our county child abuse and neglect rate per 1,000 Children under Age 18 was 8.1%. In 2017, there were 136 reports of child sexual abuse to DCS in our community. As the heroin problem in here has increased the reports of abuse and neglect have skyrocketed. We have had a 100% increase in child welfare cases in the last 3 years which coincides with a more than 1000% increase in crimes related to heroin use. Historically, most investigation of child abuse is conducted by various agencies independent of each other, with the child often telling their story repeatedly to those agencies that are supposed to serve them. This causes further victimization of children and makes cases more difficult to prosecute. A child advocacy center would address this issue and reduce the emotional toll on children while increasing the level of enforcement of crimes against children.
The $25,000 would assist us in acquiring a permanent home for the HCCAC. There is a need for a permanent facility in which to house this work. Now this work is done in law enforcement agencies. It is not an environment that is friendly for children. Children are frequently not comfortable in discussing these issues while in a police station. As a result the interviews they provide are not of the quality needed to fully and completely investigate and prosecute these crimes and incidents. The funding would also help us to acquire the audio/visual recording equipment which is necessary to record the interviews. It would help us to acquire all of the other materials needed to get this project off the ground such as tables, chairs, computers, paint, and housewares needed to make a space for this space "child friendly".
It would have a massive substantial long term impact on the children of this community. The lasting impact the HCCAC will be with children and non-offending caregivers. It will make the investigation, prosecution, and protection of children in our community substantially more effective. It will decrease the chance that the child will experience further abuse, it will improve emotional well-being for the child being interviewed, and decrease the stress for that child in the interview process. It will result in higher quality interviews and better evidence and will serve as the cornerstone of the efforts in this community to protect our children and hold accountable those who will do them harm.