A little publicized, but extremely important group of individuals, representing several agencies, works together to “review, update and collaborate” in an effort to improve the lives of children in Pocahontas County.
According to a report from CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates – of the 11th Judicial Circuit, 611 children in this county have been reported as abused and or neglected.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as it does each month, the Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team (MDIT) met at the Pocahontas County Courthouse Thursday to go over its case list.
The group said each of the agencies offers neutral fact finding, and they hold each other accountable. When agencies worked alone, insufficient information was the result. Caseloads were heavy and too many cases fell through the cracks.
Working together, the MDIT provides a safety net and, in some cases, a lifeline for children in need.
The MDIT is made up of representatives from Child Protective Services, the prosecuting attorney’s office, Family Refuge Center, medical and mental health agencies, Pocahontas County Schools, Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department and the Child and Youth Advocacy Center (CYAC).
Counties served by MDITs under the CYAC are Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Monroe. Pocahontas County has the largest involvement of agencies.
Attending Thursday’s meeting were Family Refuge Center Advocates Kim Beverage and Selina Gay, CYAC Forensic Interviewer JoAnna Willis and Victim’s Advocate Barbara Stone, Pocahontas County Schools Counselor Janessa Henderson, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Keith McMillion, Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Kelly, and Pocahontas County Schools nurse Jenny Friel.
Kelly said deputies Dave Walton and Brian Shinaberry also participate in meetings, as the rotation of deputies helps to keep the sheriff’s department better informed about situations affecting the children.
“People think we want to take their children,” Beverage said. “We don’t want to take their children. We want families to function better. We want to provide a safer environment. Our goal is safe, healthy, peaceful families.”
When abuse or neglect is reported to an agency, the wheels begin to turn in hopes of bringing about change.
Those steps include meeting with non-violating family members, identifying needed services, and, if necessary, taking steps of prosecution to stop the abuse and neglect.
The CYAC offers free counseling to the whole family as its first step in trying to rectify the situation.
Although the numbers are staggering, this group is dedicated in its work, offering help to children and families – every day.
“Everyone is a mandated reporter of abuse and neglect,” Willis said. “You don’t have to prove it. You need only suspect it.”
Reports of suspected abuse and or neglect can be made by calling 800-352-6513.
For more information about Child Advocacy, call 304-645-4668.
Thursday’s meeting was hosted by the Family Refuge Center Advocates, with lunch catered by Rayetta’s Lunchbox in Marlinton.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com