Brentwood commissioners include CAC in budget
By Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
Brentwood Police Chief Jeff Hughes, Davis House Child Advocacy Executive Director, Marcus Stamps and Brentwood Detective John Woods, a member of the DHCAC investigative team. Carole Robinson
The Brentwood City Commission recently approved their annual operations budget for 2013-14.
A $10,000 line item in the plan for the Davis House Child Advocacy Center, made Brentwood the first local government agency to include DHACA in its budget.
After a strategic planning session with key members of the DHCAC’s Child Protective Investigative Team, professionals who investigate allegations of child sexual and/or severe physical abuse, Brentwood Police Chief Jeff Hughes realized the importance of having DHCAC become a permanent part of the city’s budget.
At his urging, commissioners agreed.
“We understand the challenges (Child Advocacy) goes through,” Hughes said. “I felt it was appropriate to ask our commissioners to help them provide services. If they didn’t have the services, we would have to hire someone or train someone in our department.”
This is not a donation, Hughes added.
“It’s money to help them help us.”
The $10,000 was based on the annual average number of Brentwood victims DHACA provides services to and the cost of those services, Hughes said.
This financial assistance does not mean DHCAC will serve Brentwood children differently than other children, DHCAC executive director Marcus Stamps said.
“We would love for this to be a model for other law enforcement entities,” Stamps added. “We appreciate Chief Hughes taking the initiative to do this.”
DHCAC operates in a partnership with law enforcement, Department of Children’s Services, Williamson County Juvenile Court, the office of the 21st Judicial District Attorney General and medical professionals from Our Kids.
That team is called CPIT—the Child Protective Investigative Team. Each member’s role on the team is different and very important to the investigation and the eventual outcome of each case.
DHCAC’s role is to provide a safe, child-friendly environment with professional counselors who help abused, frightened children feel safe, while guiding the team through the process of executing a case to prosecute the offender and begin the healing process for the victim.
In the past, a child had to repeat the story to everyone with whom he/she came in contact.
The DHCAC now video and audio record the forensic interview, which is done by professionals trained to interview children.
That allows investigators, prosecutors and others to hear the story without the child having to continually relive it, Stamps explained.
For a variety of reasons, only 28 percent of the cases brought to DHCAC have enough solid evidence to prosecute, and only 15 percent of those cases end up in trial, Stamps said.
Part of the reason is, “Children don’t often disclose abuse when it occurred,” said Brentwood Detective, John Woods an investigator on the CPIT Team.
“That means a lot of times the lack of evidence is because it is lost over time.”
However, the team of detectives investigates all allegations of abuse.
“In Tennessee, every adult is required by law to report any known or suspected case of abuse,” Woods said. “Whether or not it turns out to actually be abuse, the person who made the referral did the right thing.”
Sometimes abuse did not occur, and sometimes there is just not sufficient evidence to make a case, he said.
“My frustration is when we know something happened, but there isn’t enough evidence to do something about it,” Woods said.
DHCAC serves all four counties in the 21st Judicial District, Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson, helping families restore a sense of normalcy that will allow the children to eventually reach their full potential. All services are provided at no cost to the families.
Posted on: 9/25/2013