Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center to become model agency
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — With an award from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center will acquire the building at 95 Water St. where the agency is housed and consolidate all the services it provides under one roof to create a model center in Laconia.
Allegations that a child in Belknap County has been abused, whether received by the Division of Children, Youth and Families or reported to local and regional law enforcement agencies, are referred to the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, which coordinates the investigative process and conducts the forensic interview of the child. When the interviewing process is complete, the child and family are referred to appropriate therapeutic and social services as well as to medical and mental health providers. The agency offers similar services for adult victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. In 2016, the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center reported it handled some 220 cases.
The Granite State Children's Alliance, which operates the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, has been awarded $325,000 worth of tax credits by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which together with $20,000 from Ronald McDonald Charities and $9,000 from Granite United Way, will provide the initial financing for the project. Phil Hueber, director of resource development for the Granite State Children's Alliance, said that $200,000 of the allotted tax credits have been sold, leaving another $125,000 to be sold by March 31. The Community Development Finance Authority will receive 20 percent of the proceeds have been sold and the agency will net $275,000, of which $150,000 will fund the purchase of the property on Water Street. Hueber said that the agency has applied for a Community Development Block Grant of $575,000 to fund renovations and improvements to the building, which will include modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an HVAC system and site work.
"The Model Child Advocacy Center," the agency said in a prepared statement, "will be a home for justice, healing and learning."
Megan Noyes, director of program services, said that, along with the interview room, the center will include a medical examination room, a counseling room, a pre-trial room and a group therapy room. She explained that the center partners include law enforcement agencies, which assist with investigations; medical providers experienced in examining children for alleged abuse; prosecutors, who pursue any criminal charges; crisis center advocates, who serve non-offending parents or caregivers; and advocates for victims and witnesses, who shepherd families through through the judicial process.; and child protective services.
Together these services represent what Noyes called a Sexual Assault Response Team, SART, which with the acquisition and conversion of the building will operate under one one roof, sparing the need to shuttle a child from one agency to another and undergo a series of interviews with different individuals in different settings. "We are seeking to minimize the number of interviews," Noyes said, and ensure they are conducted in the same familiar, comfortable place to make it as easy on the child and family as possible.
"The Model CAC will be a home for justice, healing and learning," Noyes said.
The Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, established in 2005, is one of 11 such centers in the state, one in each of the 10 counties and two in Hillsborough County, four of them, including the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, operated by the Granite State Children's Alliance. The initiative to better protect children began in 1983 with legislation originating in the New Hampshire Senate that led to Attorney General's Task Force of Child Abuse and ultimately to the establishment of the first Child Advocacy Center in Rockingham County in 2001. In July 2003, Gov. Craig Benson convened a Commission for Child Protection, recommended developing a statewide network of Child Advocacy Centers, and four months later secured funding to open the centers.
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