From left, are Covington Mayor Mark Johnson, Steve and Lucy Tujague with In Jesus’ Name Foundation, STPSO Chief Deputy Jeff Boehm, CAC Board Member Tony LeMon, CAC Executive Director Thomas Mitchell, Covington Police Chief Steve Culotta, Architect Michael Hunley, and Robin Gee and Jarred Meyer with BSD Construction.
Representatives from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office were honored to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday (December 4) for the newly expanded Children's Advocacy Center Hope House.
Since 1994, the Children's Advocacy Center Hope House has partnered with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office to conduct forensic evidence collection interviewing for juvenile victims of sexual and physical abuse. The CAC Hope House also provides victims and their non-offending caregivers with specialized counseling services to help work through the trauma they have endured.
The new expansion, which was made possible through funding from the IJN Foundation (In Jesus' Name), includes added space for additional clinical interns and forensic interviewers as well as a new law enforcement room. As part of the expansion, a secure server was added to provide members of law enforcement a way to access case files electronically while still at the Hope House location.
"Prior to this expansion, we simply didn't have adequate space to maintain the best efficiency in our programs," Executive Director Thomas Mitchell said. "This project truly empowered us to serve kids in a better way."
While the local Hope House, which is located in Covington, is the first Children's Advocacy Center in Louisiana to provide collocation for law enforcement, such practices have proved very beneficial for Children's Advocacy Centers in other states.
So far in 2020, the Hope House has conducted 152 forensic interviews of children from ages 3 to 17 for the STPSO, which is the CAC's largest partner agency.
As a result of its partnership with the Hope House, STPSO has made more than 70 arrests this year, in cases where juvenile victims have been sexually and physically abused.
"Because of the professionalism of the detectives with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office and their commitment to our local children, offenders are held accountable and the children get justice; we couldn't ask for a better partnership," Mitchell said of the partnership between the STPSO and the CAC Hope House.
"These kids are getting justice. They are getting healing and they are getting an opportunity to experience joy once again," Mitchell added.
Sheriff Smith has pledged his continued support for the CAC Hope House.
"Their work plays a much needed and vital role in our investigations and in our community," he stated. "Together we will continue to support the needs of our children as we pursue justice."