Firefly House and Oak House are Child Advocacy Centers. "A Children's Advocacy Center is a safe place for the evaluation of alleged child sexual abuse. Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) enhance the response to suspected child abuse cases by combining the wisdom and professional knowledge of various investigative agencies and other professionals. These coordinated efforts can provide the knowledge, skills, and resources to assist suspected child abuse victims and their families...." (The Chronicle-November 2007-Children Advocacy Centers of Georgia)
The Mission of the CACs are to coordinate a timely, comprehensive and multidisciplinary response to victims of child abuse in a safe and child friendly setting. Our CACs are committed to the reduction of secondary trauma to child victims of abuse during the investigative and prosecutorial process, working in collaboration with the professionals in law enforcement, social services, the District Attorney, school system and the mental health and medical community, advocating for a child's right to be heard and the journey from victim to survivor that begins with the initial outcry and is followed through healing and empowerment of child and family.
The CACs conduct all of the Forensic Interviews for a 6 county, two judicial circuit area of southwest Georgia, which includes Decatur, Grady, Mitchell, Baker, Calhoun and Dougherty County. A forensic interview is a semi-structured interview conducted with children that have made allegations of being physically or sexually abused, severely neglected or witnesses of violent crimes including but not limited to sexual assault and homicide. These interviews are completed by professionally trained forensic interviewers and coordinated with the involved investigative agencies. This reduces the trauma to the child by avoiding multiple interviews and preserving statements for legal purposes.
The Firefly House CAC also provides all of our core services to the Marine Corp Logistics Base in Albany and has also been called on to complete forensic interviews for interstate child molestation cases. We do courtesy interviews for 16 other counties when they cannot absorb the number of children they have that day. We provide case tracking for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit that follows that child from the time of the report until the investigative team closes the case and/or after the alleged perpetrator has been prosecuted in court. The DVD that is created at the time of the interview becomes law enforcement’s evidence as well as the drawings completed by the child and forensic interviewer during the forensic interview. Often the forensic interviewer can testify in the place of the child to prevent further trauma/re-victimization caused by fear of facing their attacker. The testimony provided in court is at no charge to the victim or to the state in the judicial circuits in the CAC’s catchment area. Former District Attorney Ken Hodges reported that when forensic interviews were completed with children during law enforcement investigations, his prosecution rate went from 76% to 97% of cases being successfully prosecuted.
Since the Firefly House Children's Advocacy Center opened the summer of 2008, we have served over 1,500 children who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, or have been witnesses to violent/sexual crimes. The Firefly House is a member of the Multi-Disciplinary Team for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit. The members of the Multi-Disciplinary Team of Dougherty County are: Albany Area Community Service Board, Albany Police Department, Boren Center, CASA, Department of Family and Children Services, District Attorney's Office, Dougherty County Juvenile Court, Dougherty County Police Department, Dougherty County School System, Dougherty County School System Police, Dougherty County Sheriff's Department, Lily Pad SANE and Firefly House CAC, Marine Corps Logistic Base, and Victim’s Assistance. All cases in the Dougherty Judicial Circuit are reviewed within two weeks of the forensic interview to ensure prompt investigation and follow up with social service agencies. The Oak House CAC is a member of the South Georgia Judicial Circuit Multi-Disciplinary Team which reviews cases monthly. All five counties in the circuit are represented by law enforcement, DFCS, juvenile justice, mental health, Boren Center and the Oak House. All cases are reviewed until they are closed due to the case being unfounded, exceptionally cleared or prosecuted.