SAFE Spot Child Advocacy Center

SAFE, Inc. has launched a fundraising campaign provide better care for abused children in Wilkes County.


Donations to SAFE’s “Better Care for Abused Children” campaign will help establish an accredited child advocacy center in Wilkes. The new center will provide comprehensive services to children and families affected by sexual abuse or severe physical abuse.


Number of abused children in Wilkes is large and growing


“Child sexual abuse is a big problem in Wilkes County, and it’s getting worse,” SAFE executive director Kristi Thomas says.


Local law enforcement agencies investigate more than 100 sex crimes involving minors each year. The Wilkes Department of Social Services reports an 18% rise in reports of child sexual abuse.


Despite the strong need for services, Wilkes County doesn't have an accredited child advocacy center. Children and families must routinely go out of town for the help they need.


Bringing better care to abused children and their families  

The new center will provide direct care to abused children and non-offending family members. Victim assistance, counseling and medical care will all be provided in one location.


Currently, abuse victims are forced to tell their stories over and over, as social workers, police and prosecutors each gather information separately. Victim care isn’t well coordinated, and some services are only available out-of-town.


With a child advocacy center, investigations are conducted differently. After the initial report, the child is interviewed just once by a trained forensic interviewer. The interview takes place in the private, child-friendly confines of the center. The interview is recorded, and members of the multidisciplinary team can view the interview via closed circuit TV and communicate with the interviewer in real time.  The risk of retraumatization is greatly reduced.

While the child is being interviewed, non-offending caregivers meet with the center’s victim advocate. He becomes “the point of first contact” for the family and will serve as their supporter and liaison throughout the healing process. The victim advocate coordinates care, linking the child to counseling, medical care and other needed services. The center will offer most of the services children need under one roof, reducing travel time.


Over time, the victim advocate will stay in touch with the family to be sure the child continues to receive needed services. One study found victims served by a child advocacy center were more than twice as likely to receive support services.


Preventing abuse by improving prosecution of sex offenders 


At the center, trained forensic interviewers will gather information from children. A team of law enforcement officers, child protective services personnel, prosecutors, advocates and care providers will meet regularly to coordinate investigations.


Working together has big benefits. Team investigations result in quicker response times, more prosecutions and more guilty pleas, a study by the Center for Policy Research found.



Community is working together to improve care 



The child advocacy center organizing effort began in March 2011 when SAFE convened an agency summit to discuss the community’s response to sexual assault. Improving services to child sexual assault victims emerged as a top priority of the group. Since then, a team of mental health providers, educators, social workers, law enforcement officers and prosecutors has met regularly to develop plans for the center.


An interagency agreement approved in November 2011 commits the Wilkes County Department of Social Services, the District Attorney’s office and Wilkes County’s three law enforcement agencies to the development of an accredited center with SAFE as the organizing entity. Pictured here, from the left: 23rd District Attorney Tom Horner, SAFE Executive Director Kristi Thomas, Wilkes County Sheriff Chris Shew, Wilkes Department of Social Services Director Bill Sebastian, SAFE Board Chairperson Erica Walker, North Wilkesboro Chief of Police Joe Rankin and Capt. R.T. Rhodes, representing the Wilkesboro Police Department.


New center is already helping children and families


State funding for the center began October 1, 2012. Since then, the new center has been providing several services to help children and families:

  • The center is helping fund mental health counseling for child victims and non-offending family members.
  • The center coordinates the Wilkes County Multidisciplinary Team. The team includes representatives of the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office, North Wilkesboro Police Department, Wilkesboro Police Department, Wilkes County Department of Social Services, Wilkes County Schools, 23rd District Attorney's Office, 23rd District Guardian Ad Litem program, licensed professional counselors and the center's victim advocate. The team meets regularly to coordinate investigations and victim care. 
  • The center is providing victim advocacy services to non-offending family members.


SAFE has also leased a vacant, 1,200 square foot office suite that will be developed for use as the new child advocacy center. The space is adjacent to SAFE’s new offices on College Avenue in Wilkesboro, and the CAC will share lobby space with SAFE. The space offers adjacent off-street parking and accessibility for physically disabled clients. 


Your contributions will help build the new child advocacy center



Proceeds from the “Better Care for Abused Children Campaign” will be used to retrofit the vacant space for use as a child advocacy center.

Four special-purpose rooms will be created:


· The forensic interview room will be a cozy, acoustically-isolated area for one-on-one interviews with children. This room will include a closed circuit camera and microphone system.


· The conference room will be equipped with a monitor to allow team members to observe interviews privately in real time. The team will be able communicate with the interviewer to provide questions and feedback during the interview.


· The medical room will be equipped with an exam table and typical medical equipment. The room will also include a colposcope, a specialized piece of medical equipment with a camera that is used to examine and collect evidence from victims of sexual assault. The medical room will have an adjacent handicapped-accessible restroom. 


· The family room will accommodate therapy sessions and meetings with caregivers.


Renovations will begin in Fall 2013.


SAFE Board of Directors Chairperson Erica Walker points out where the therapy room will be located in the new child advocacy center. SAFE will follow national accreditation standards as it develops the 1,200 square foot space for use as a child advocacy center.


You can help bring better care to abused children


Your gift to SAFE's "Better Care for Abused Children Campaign" will help build the new child advocacy center, bringing a bright new day to abused children in Wilkes County. Donations to the campaign are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Click here to donate securely online, or mail your donation to:


SAFE, Inc.

P.O. Box 445

Wilkesboro, NC 28697