Anything and everything is possible when you connect with the heart of a child.
That’s what the recovery teams at Hope Haven Children’s Advocacy Center set out to accomplish each day, and they’ve been succeeding for 27 years.
“Hope Haven originally started as a children’s shelter,” says John James, executive director. “A group of local citizens recognized the need for a resource for children entering foster care in our area. They, along with the local youth court judge, raised money, purchased a house, hired staff and started Hope Haven. We are truly the result of a community coming together.”
The community alliance that began with the initial shelter continues, and the Center now offers an oasis of recovery and a path to justice for children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse. The child advocacy hub has specially trained staff who provide forensic interviews, parenting classes for the non-offending caregiver, referrals for forensic medical exams and mental health services. The teams work closely with law enforcement officers, court systems, district attorneys’ offices and specially trained medical providers.
“The children we serve are often the victims of unimaginable trauma,” James says. “This trauma, if not addressed correctly, will follow them their entire lifetime. We offer specially certified and trained mental health providers and services for as long as needed at no cost. So much more is known now about trauma and its impact on children and families than we knew even 10 years ago.”
The center’s staff consists of a forensic interviewer, two certified family advocates and a multidisciplinary coordinator.
“Between all of us, we have close to 100 years of experience working with abused children,” James says.
Days at Hope Haven start with law enforcement referrals, followed by forensic interviews of children suspected to be victims of felony abuse. Advocates also meet with families to help them with mental health and medical services, as well as law enforcement for possible protection and prosecution. The specialists also prepare families for court cases and offer parenting classes.
“The work never ends,” James says, “but we are going to make going through this process as stress-free for the child as we can. These children and their families come to us at a scary, terrible time in their lives. We do get to see them connect and build trust with our staff and start to heal. I love how much our staff loves their jobs and the families we serve.”
Hope Haven is one of only 11 accredited children advocacy centers in Mississippi, and James says the nonprofit cannot operate without outside financial support.
“We are the most critical nonprofit agency on the Gulf Coast concerning the protection of children and provision of free healing services to abuse victims,” he says. “We assist the district attorneys, law enforcement officers and child protective services with getting people who hurt kids off of the streets. Our DAs will tell you we are the one nonprofit they cannot work without.”
James notes that state nonprofits receiving funding from the Federal Victims of Crime Act took a 50 percent funding cut last year, which for Hope Haven meant about a $125,000 loss in operating funds.
“We all could face significant cuts again this year, and if that happens, you will see many nonprofit agencies close and eliminate services,” he says. “I don’t know what our future would hold under that scenario. We need our community’s support. Please consider donating to Hope Haven as you choose the agencies you support this year.”
Visit www.hopehavencac.org for additional information about Hope Haven Children’s Advocacy Center, or find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.