Hope Haven Children’s Advocacy Center helps children who are victims of sexual abuse and trauma. Here, Executive Director John C. James shares more about the organization and its role in the community:
What is the purpose and mission of Hope Haven Children’s Advocacy Center?
Hope Haven serves Hancock and Pearl River Counties and works with more Child Protective Services children than any other nonprofit in either county, having served over 400 children and families in 2021.
As a Children’s Advocacy Center, Hope Haven provides services to child victims of sexual abuse and felony physical abuse. We provide advocacy and mental health services to abuse victims and their non-offending family members for as long as needed and at no cost. Hope Haven also provides a specialized role in partnership with the district attorney, local law enforcement and CPS during the investigation of child abuse cases. Hope Haven has highly trained staff who conduct specialized forensic interviews of abuse victims and child victims who are witnesses to abuse. Law enforcement and CPS staff observe these interviews from a remote location, and they are critical to the criminal investigation.
When needed, Hope Haven provides specialized medical care and assessments. Our staff take the lead role on the Hancock and Pearl River Multidisciplinary Teams, reviewing abuse cases under investigation with all team members monthly to ensure children are receiving services and cases are moving forward and do not fall through the cracks.
Hope Haven also supports children and families through initiatives and programs like the annual back- to-school and Christmas drives for families in need. Hope Haven is the original and largest provider of the Darkness to Light curriculum to families who have experienced child abuse, having trained over 1,000 people since its inception.
How and why did Hope Haven Children’s Advocacy Center come about?
Hope Haven started as a Youth Shelter in 1995 when then Youth Court Judge Anne Kothman recognized a need among Hancock County foster children. She assembled a group of concerned local citizens, who built and established the shelter for the county. After Hurricane Katrina, Hope Haven’s mission changed, and it began serving children involved in the CPS system as a Child Advocacy Center in 2016.
The district attorneys and youth court judges in Hancock and Pearl River counites now play a significant role in Hope Haven’s work. Hope Haven is a member of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi, whose statewide executive director is Hancock County native Karla Tye.
What’s new and exciting with Hope Haven?
In 2021, Hope Haven became a fully accredited Children’s Advocacy Center after officials from the National Children’s Alliance conducted an exhaustive onsite review. Accreditation means Hope Haven meets the highest standards required of a CAC and provides the highest level of services. Hope Haven will remain accredited through 2026, at which time it will undergo another review.
What impact does Hope Haven have on the community and those it serves?
Hope Haven plays a significant role in the Hancock and Pearl River County communities by helping to ensure the safety of victims of the most serious and devastating types of child abuse, ensuring they receive no-cost services for as long as needed to address their emotional and physical health and working with our partner agencies to ensure cases do not fall through the cracks, with all efforts undertaken to ensure those who hurt children are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
What has been the greatest thing you have learned or gained by being involved in this organization?
I have been forever changed by the strength and resilience of children who have suffered the worst forms of abuse. We are honored to serve them and help them move forward in their lives.
I also have been forever changed by the dedication of our Hope Haven staff, who work with victims and hear heartbreaking stories day after day. We are a nonprofit, and staff work here out of love and concern for these children. Our community stakeholders’ dedication and the partnerships we have in working these cases together is unbelievable.