The Child Advocacy Program (CAP) in Chautauqua County is truly a ‘shining’ example of what a community can accomplish when coming together.
In 2007 former District Attorney David Foley, applied for a grant that would provide significant funding for a cause within the county: supporting a dedicated team in advocating against and responding to child abuse and neglect. Today, the impact this team, and the resulting organization CAP, has been immeasurable.
Under the 2007 funding, Project Director Jana McDermott was hired, the only staff member of what soon became the Child Advocacy Program. Today, CAP has 14 staff members as part of their ‘Multi-Disciplinary Team. As CAP states, ‘…the group has grown from sharing an office with the district attorney’s office to having a space of their own on West 3rd street. The team is the heart of our CAP’s response to allegations of child abuse. Each person is crucial to maximize the ability to provide thorough and effective services to children and their families.”
CAP, with offices in both Jamestown and Fredonia, works to provide services to children and families county wide. Staff, volunteers, law enforcement agencies, youth advocates, and community partners work to create a safe environment for children who have experienced significant trauma, be that physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or living through a traumatic experience.
Utilizing the model of Forensic Interviewing, trained staff work with children asking non-leading questions, within CAP offices. This form of interviewing is important as it provides the space to record an interview with a child once, preventing the traumatization that can come with repeated interviews with various individuals and agencies. CAP provides all of its services for free.
Beth Oakes, Executive Director, emphasizes the importance of offering these services at no cost. “We provide advocacy to families and children, as they go through the court system and the process, helping the families heal. Mental health counselors provide trauma counseling for free. The nice features of not charging are no paperwork and we can see them [families] sooner.”
New and Valued Services
CAP also provides medical exams for children to assure of their health and answer questions. The ‘Less is More’ program works with mandated reporters to share information on what an individual should and should not do when a child discloses abuse. Listening to the child and letting the system take them through one step at a time is best, creating a less traumatic environment.
Another component of CAP’s advocacy work is the ‘Stewards of Children’ program, an educational workshop where adults who work with or are interested in advocating for youth learn to recognize child abuse, as well as protective factors to prevent abuse.
CAP has most recently contracted with the County to oversee the ‘Safe Harbour Program’, an anti human-trafficking program funded through New York State. Human trafficking can come in many forms, however in all cases includes the exploitation of children by others, usually adults. As Oakes states, “It fits right in with what we do, a lot of the children we see, as they get older may be at risk…it [human trafficking] takes many different faces in our area.”
In addition, CAP recently hired a bilingual advocate, expanding their capacity to service area Spanish speaking families.
Precious as a Diamond
Celebrating their ten year anniversary, CAP is gearing up to present the 10th Annual ‘Diamond Dinner.’ In 2019 over 350 individuals attended. The success of the event lies in the collaborative nature of the work CAP does, Oakes states. “It is a unique fundraiser, and you do look at ‘when has a fundraiser run its course, what do you do to interest people in coming’. But each year we have a lot of law enforcement officers, CPS, community partners involved with CAP, as well as great partners in the community that care about people, that might not be directly involved in the work or CAP. Everyone wants children to have healthier lives.”
As in the past, the Diamond Dinner will feature the auction of a beautiful diamond ring. Each attendee is automatically entered to win, with additional chances available for purchase. The event will also include a live auction, with interactive experiences up for bid including a boat ride and a hot air balloon excursion. A silent auction will also be available with a variety of baskets donated by local businesses.
The Diamond Dinner is not only an exciting night out, funds raised go towards funding CAP’s programs. In 2019 CAP served over 500 children throughout Chautauqua County, with 199 forensic interviews being conducted, and 2641 adults trained in Stewards of Children. Oakes reports that they have seen real demand for their services, indicating that increased outreach has been touching many lives.
CAP is excited to celebrate at this year’s event, recognizing ten years of community organizing and impact.
The annual Diamond Dinner will be held April 4 at Chautauqua Suites in Mayville. Tickets can be purchased at www.capjustice.org; reservations are to be made by March 23. Individuals can purchase tickets at $75 apiece, or groups can purchase a table for 8 guests. Cocktail hour starts at 5 pm, with dinner beginning at 7 pm.
Sponsors of the event include Chautauqua Suites and Expo Center; Lake Shore Paving Inc.; Media One Group; Afloral; Contract Interior Solutions; Cummins JEP; FSC Systems; Jamestown Pediatric Associations; Jamestown Roofing; Moonlight Electric of Jamestown; National Fuel; SKF Aeroengine; Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union; PEL Industrial Supply Inc.; Kranky Plate Productions; Bemus Point United Methodist Church; Gugino & Ryel Financial; HOPE’s Window Inc; Integrated Benefit Solutions Inc; Jamestown Macadam Inc; Jamestown Rental Properties; Johnson Estate Winery; Lewis & Lewis PC; Saxton, Kocur & Associates; Tim Hortons; Truck-Lite; Basil Chevrolet Buick Cadillac; Deppas Services Inc (The Legend Group); DFT Communications; Ludwig Auction & Realty Company, Inc; Lutheran Social Services; Tint Press; and Slone Melhuish.
Together, as a community, great impact can be made in bettering the lives of our children. Oakes emphasizes the value of CAP and the work done. “I think it is very important for communities to come together and work to prevent child abuse and neglect and whether that is coming to a dinner, or volunteering for cap or getting involved in organizations that do those things, its important communities step up. Takes a lot of us to effect positive change.”