CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER EARNS NATIONAL RE-ACCREDITATION
National Children's Alliance recognizes the Harford County CAC for its ongoing delivery of high quality and effective services to child abuse victims through accreditation
Bel Air, Maryland (June 8, 2016) - The Harford County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) has been awarded re-accreditation by the National Children's Alliance following an extensive application and site review process. As the accrediting agency for Children's Advocacy Centers across the country, the National Children's Alliance awards various levels of accreditation and membership to centers responding to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient, and put the needs of child victims of abuse first. Accreditation is the highest level of membership with National Children's Alliance and denotes excellence in service provision.
Harford County Detective Carey Gerres and her therapy dog, Kilo, “celebrate a new law creating a pilot program in Anne Arundel and Harford counties that will study bringing dogs into the courthouse to work with child witnesses. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, and had support from both the Anne Arundel and Harford county delegations.”
“The pilot will launch in October and last for three years. State lawmakers can then use the findings to consider crafting legislation that would permit courthouse dogs statewide.”
“Gerres and Kilo went through training with Cecil County-based nonprofit PAWS for People several years ago. She planned to volunteer with him in her free time, but soon discovered Kilo was a reassuring presence to the children she works with in her own job at the Harford County Child Advocacy Center.”
“A bill working its way through the General Assembly would create a pilot program in Anne Arundel and Harford counties to study using the dogs to work with child witnesses in courts across Maryland.”
“Gerres, who works with the Harford County Child Advocacy Center, has joined with state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, to advocate for the legislation.”
“Simonaire started considering the measure after reading about Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Keith Baynes, who brings his therapy dog, Buddy, to interviews with children in divorce and custody cases. He reached out to the child advocacy center in Harford, and to administrative judges there and in Anne Arundel, about potential legislation. He got an enthusiastic response.”
Detective Testifies in Support of Senate Bill 55 Child Witness-Facility and Therapy Dogs
This week, Detective Carey Gerres, assigned to the Child Advocacy Center, and Kilo testified in support of Senate Bill 55 Child Witness-Facility and Therapy Dogs.
Here are parts of her testimony:
My name is Detective Carey Gerres of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, and I am assigned to the Harford County Child Advocacy Center where I, along with my team, investigate crimes against children, to include physical and sexual abuse.
I also have another role that I hold not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well...
I am part of a pet therapy team with my dog Kilo who is here with me today.
Kilo and I became a certified pet therapy team through an organization called PAWS for People in 2013.
I immediately saw the positive interaction between Kilo and the children we saw on our own time.
I knew our CAC and its victims would also benefit greatly from having Kilo visit.
So after much work and collaboration the pet therapy program was established in Harford County.
We all know there is hard science behind pet therapy and an animal's innate ability to connect with humans.
There are countless statistics and numerous national news stories showcasing how animals, dogs in particular, are able to make a traumatizing experience like testifying in court just a little less traumatic for that child by simply just being there.
But we are doing so much more that that when we are putting children and dogs together.
Using a term I heard from a fellow therapy animal advocate, allowing a therapy or facility dog to accompany a child to court is making the criminal trial more "child-fair".
On one occasion we were asked to accompany a girl to court that had been sexually abused by an older family member.
While her mother, attorneys, and other agents of the court argued the technicalities of the case the little girl spent time with Kilo behind the scenes.
She played with him, brushed him, and took him for a walk.
After several hours it was decided that she would not be testifying and she was reunited with her family.
Her mother told me that she had been so worried about how her daughter was going to handle the judicial process that she almost considered not going through with charging the abuser.
She told me that had she known from the beginning that her daughter was going to have the support of a therapy animal she would have been much less worried about the possible negative effects this process would have on her daughter.
I consider this interaction between Kilo and the girl another success and a great example of what this legislation could do for our child victims.
In closing, I think regardless of what side of the courtroom you sit on, one thing we are all looking for in a somewhat complicated and sometimes unpredictable criminal justice system is a fair outcome.
I think we owe nothing less to our abused children, it is the least we can do.
The proposed legislation in front of you today would be the first step in doing just that.
Child Advocacy Center Takes Safety Message Around the World!
Recently, Lt. Veto Mentzell, Program Director of the Child Advocacy Center, took a safety message half way around the world!
He spoke virtually with students at the American International School of Guangzhou in China!
Lt. Mentzell spent 30 minutes answering the students' questions and gave them some safety pointers.
"It was a lot of fun for me" said Lt. Mentzell, "and my friend says that the scouts and their parents really enjoyed it too."
Honoring Women's History Month - Detective Carey Gerres
Kids Sexting Happens 'On a Daily Basis': Harford County Detective
Presentation on internet safety in Bel Air included tips on what to do, how to talk to children about nude pictures.