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Last updated: July 17. 2013 5:24PM - 381 Views
By - fpace@civitasmedia.com - 304-369-1165



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MADISON The dream of bringing a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) to Boone County was originally conceived by Lynn Lorentz, veteran social worker for Boone and Kanawha counties.
Lorentz was serving as the Community Service Manager at the Boone County DHHR when she heard Victor Veith, Director of the National Child Protection Center, speak at the Juvenile Justice Conference in Charleston.
Lorentz began to ignite the flames of desire in various professionals in Boone County to help bring a CAC to Boone County.
She traveled to Mercer County to meet with Mary Ellen Griffith (then a Guardian Ad Litem) to discuss her aspirations.
Lorentz attended some WV Child Advocacy Center Network meetings and directed her CPS supervisor, Monica Ballard, to assist her with attending the meetings and gathering community support. Initial meetings consisted of 30 to 40 community leaders who were committed to the project.
The project was funded by Benedum for the start up. However, after Lorentz and Ballard left their jobs at DHHR, they learned that the center had lost funding and there had been no one to carry the torch.
However, the community had not forgotten the hope of having a functioning CAC.
As many local attorneys and former clients (and their friends and relatives) were aware of the instrumental role Ballard played in the formation of the CAC and in her role as a forensic interviewer, CFI began to receive increasing numbers of inquiries from clients who had been abused or had children.
Their needs often included a need for advocacy, extended forensic interviews, linkage, referrals, trauma focused therapy, and other forms of support, Ballard explained. Often, the families had been the subject of CPS intervention but their cases had been closed. Despite the resolutions of cases by CPS and law enforcement, the families found that they still had unmet needs.
CFI staff began to fill many of these roles and responded to this unmet need in the community by gathering together a steering committee of individuals who shared a concern for this service barrier and empathy for the victims and their families.
With the help of Lorentz, Ballard, and the CFI Board, a steering committee was formed on January 13, 2009 to begin developing the new center. It was then that CFI established a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Project.
CFI was awarded a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to fund CFI programs related to substance abuse and to the CAC project.
In September of 2009, CFI was able to hire a full time employee, Tonya Vannatter, to provide coordinated services for the CAC including: forensic interviews, advocacy, linkage, community awareness and assisting with collaboration with other agencies as well as other CAC related tasks.
Vannatter brought with her a wealth of experience from her former employers including her work with the homeless, individuals who are HIV positive or had been diagnosed with AIDS, and with individuals who were developmental disabilities or mental retardation.
Vannatter also possesses extensive knowledge in addiction and has facilitated substance groups for both adolescents and adults.
The Boone County CAC lost funding when the JAG stimulus grant ended in the summer of 2010, but the project has survived, Ballard said.
The team was able to secure an AmeriCorps Vista grant to build the capacity of the Boone County CAC Project, she said.
Vannatter accepted the AmeriCorps Vista position where she is placed at the CAC. While, Ballard continued to direct the center pro-bono and to provide direct services on a fee for service basis (when appropriate) and pro-bono for those who did not have funding.
The CAC Advisory Team has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively, Ballard added. In addition to the active team members, 10 new volunteers contributed to the Boone CAC Spa Day that was held earlier this month.
Ballard said they contributed in the weeks prior to the event and during the event.
These volunteers were from diverse backgrounds including students, beauticians, independent sales workers, stay at home mothers, and massage therapists, she said.
The Boone County CAC project is under the umbrella of Cornerstone Family Interventions, Inc. It is a 501 ( c ) (3) non profit. Cornerstone Family Interventions, Inc. (CFI) was formed in 2005 in response to the lack of resources that were available to children and families in southern West Virginia, particularly in Boone County, that put them at risk for harm.
The mission of CFI is to promote safety, permanency, and wellbeing for children, families, and individuals in West Virginia, Ballard said. The CAC shares this mission in addition to the shared visions that all CACs espouse.
Ballard serves as the director of Cornerstone Family Interventions and the Boone County CAC. She is a supervised psychologist and a licensed social worker. She is also a certified mediator on the West Virginia Supreme Courts List of Approved Divorce and Custody Mediators. She provides psychological services to the center including forensic interviewing, trauma focused therapy, and extended forensic interviewing.
Psychological services are provided under the supervision of Dr. Tim Saar of Saar Psychological Group, said Ballard.
Ballard serves as an advisory member (non voting) to the CFI board. Previously, she served on the CAC steering committee (now advisory team). She also attends Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team (MDIT) meetings. She completes grant applications for the organization. She prepares policies and updates for the organization, CAC project and more.
Under the JAG grant, Vannatter served as the direct staff member for the CAC project and this is her primary function.
She was instrumental in the further development of the center through her dedication to steering committee meetings, Ballard said. She is a forensic interviewer and she assists with linkage, advocacy, follow up, and MDIT attendance. Tonya assisted the project by developing brochures and newsletters and sending reminders to MDIT members. Additionally, Tonya assisted with linkage to victim advocates and she sometimes provided advocacy for families. Tonyas experience and hard work helped the CAC project to grow in referrals and in the quality of services given to referrals. Tonya received training on grant writing and has worked to generate funds for the center.
Now, in her role as a Vista, Vannatter is working to develop the centers capacty.
Focus has been on generating local support and funding, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment for the CAC, Ballard said. Tonya organized the centers first fundraiser, The Boone County Child Advocacy Center Spa Day, which took place on March 5. There were more than 30 participants and numerous volunteers. Tonya also provides forensic interviews at the center on a fee for service basis. If funding is secured, Tonya will return to her role as forensic interviewer.
Funding has been requested from the Boone County Commission to fund an advocate/administrative assistant for the center, according to Ballard.
The Boone County CAC was recently notified that they were chosen to receive a Program Improvement and Expansion Grant from the National Childrens Alliance which will help the center to take steps toward meeting long term goals required to function as a CAC. Matching funds were requested for two additional Vista workers to help improve the centers capactiy to serve.
We currently receive no local funding, Ballard said. We are hoping the county commissions and other corporate and community organizations help us and understand the need for these services in Boone County.
Ballard points to statistics that show child abuse rates are rising and getting worse, especially in Boone County. The abuse and neglect rate in Boone County in 2003 was 13.7 children per 1,000 in 2003. In 2009 it was 41.6 children per 1,000.
Cornerstone Family Interventions, Inc. (CFI) was formed in response to the lack of resources that were available to children and families in southern West Virginia, particularly in Boone County, that put them at risk for harm, Ballard said.
For more information about Cornerstone Family Interventions or to help with funding, call Monica Ballard at 304-369-5283.
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