Child advocacy group helps law enforcement with children, teens who witness crimes

Child advocacy group helps law enforcement with children, teens who witness crimes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A witness' testimony can ensure justice in the courtroom, but coming from a toddler, the words may be hard to get out.

Recently, the Baton Rouge community rallied around a 3-year-old who likely witnessed her own mother's murder. The 3-year-old was able to give investigators several key details in her mother's murder.

Investigators say having a special place to interview children can be key.

One of those places serves a four-parish area around Baton Rouge. The Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is set up to help investigators extract important details about crimes from young children and teenagers who may have witnessed them.

Toni Bankston, the director of the CAC, is prevented from talking about specific cases but said, in general, the work going on at CAC is sometimes invaluable to prosecutors and police.

"You're on a mission to help law enforcement and the DA's Office get the best information they can get," she said. "That really helps you kind of put into perspective the pain and the heartbreak of what you're actually hearing."

CAC employs several specially trained people who can talk with children about their experiences. Bankston said therapy can start almost immediately for young people in individual or group sessions.

"You're having to balance the need to make the child comfortable and establish a rapport with the client while at the same time, ensuring that you're following a protocol that is going to be included potentially in a prosecution's case." Bankston said. "Even when we're in the middle of something that's really sudden and terrible, we're keeping in mind that we have tools to give kids that we also bring hope, and we've seen wonderful, miraculous, transformational stories happen, and that's what really helps us do what we do."

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