The WV Bar Foundation Board of Directors was gratified to provide a Bar Foundation grant to the WV Child Advocacy Network (WVCAN) to support two successful statewide summits this past summer focusing on child abuse and neglect prevention, one for the judiciary and one for prosecuting attorneys.
In its formal report on the utilization of the grant, WVCAN Executive Director Emily Crittenden-Laird presented the WVCAN goal–“In collaboration with Child Advocacy Centers throughout the Mountain State, our goal is to minimize trauma for abused children, break the cycle of abuse, and hold offenders accountable.”
To help achieve this goal, “WVCAN convened two one-day summits (one for judges, one for prosecutors) on child abuse victims in the criminal justice system to improve the investigation, prosecution, and judicial handling of child abuse cases. The Judicial Focus Group hosted 6 judges (plus Court Improvement Program staff) and the Prosecutorial Focus Group hosted 7 prosecutors.”
The immediate outcome for the Judicial Focus Group was—“The WV Supreme Court’s Court Improvement Program (CIP) has included education on child abuse, CACs, and forensic interviewing in the agendas for recent Guardians Ad Litem trainings and the summer cross-trainings. After WVCAN presented outcomes of the focus group to CIP in early 2017, CIP is recommending the inclusion of CAC training to the Judicial Association and Family Court Association, as well. It is anticipated those judicial trainings will occur in the next 6 months.
The immediate outcome for the Prosecutorial Focus Group was —“The prosecutors in attendance also recommended the implementation of a pre-conference educational track about child sexual abuse at the summer meeting of the WV Prosecuting Attorneys Institute.” In addition, “WVCAN followed up with the WV Prosecuting Attorney’s Institute shortly after the focus group to discuss the outcomes of the discussion. The two organizations will continue discussing possible avenues for addressing the prosecutors’ legislative concerns in the future.”
The following comments were made by two of the summits’ participants:
Judge: “CACs are needed in every county. I work in two counties: one with a CAC and one without, and the way cases are handled in these two counties is night and day.”
Prosecutor: “We need more opportunities like this. It’s wonderful to be with peers who are committed to the protection of children.”
The Bar Foundation commends WVCAN for these excellent activities to improve the administration of justice here in West Virginia.