Abuse can be a traumatic event for any child, but the Child Advocacy Program aims to create a comforting and caring environment for these victims.
The Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County held an open house Thursday afternoon to thank all of the supporters and volunteers who helped to make their recent expansion possible. The open house featured tours of the new facility and speeches from Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley and state Sen. Cathy Young, among others. Steve Wickmark of The Red House in Cassadaga was also on hand to present the Child Advocacy Program with a donation in the form of a check for $1,000. According to Wickmark, RichardFest, a concert festival held at The Red House will also act as a fundraiser for the Child Advocacy Program next year.
The Child Advocacy Program was spearheaded in 2007 by the District Attorney's Office in an effort to give children who are the victims of domestic and sexual abuse a safe haven. Through donations and volunteer work, the Child Advocacy Program recently completed a 1,700-square-foot addition to their space, located at 405 W. Third St. in Jamestown.
"This has been an eventful year for us," said Jana McDermott, executive director of the Child Advocacy Program. "Last year at this time we were only beginning to pull together everything we needed for the renovation. Now we have a beautiful safe haven for the children. This project got off to a great start thanks to all of the support that we had."
The renovations to the building include more space for counseling sessions, a medical exam room, and a new kitchen, which was provided by Jamestown Kitchen & Bath.
One of the key programs that they will be focusing on now that the renovations have been completed is the "Stewards of Children" workshop. The program, which is comprised of a 2-hour class, focuses on increasing the awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child abuse, teaching new skills to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to abuse, and allow for positive input to change organizational policies in the community. The Child Advocacy Program has already educated nearly 300 adults and is aiming to have 5,000 go through the program over the next five years.
Sen. Young expressed her thanks for the support that the Child Advocacy Program has been able to offer the county during her speech at Thursday's event.
"I know how much this program means to all of you," Sen. Young said. "It was very sobering for me, driving here today, because I know that somewhere a child is being abused right now. That thought drives the point home about how necessary the Child Advocacy Program is, not just in the county, but in the entire nation."
Foley, who is considered the father of the Child Advocacy Program, was the individual who wrote the original grant to start the program and for a time, ran it out of the district attorney's office. He said that original goal was to eventually set the program free and he believes that it has been extremely successful in doing so.
"From a prosecutor's perspective, this program absolutely works," Foley said. "We're coming out of this with better cases and even beyond that, we're able to help the children, which is the real goal."