Amy Boney is the Executive Director of the Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center in Americus, Georgia.
CACGA: What is Lighthouse CAC?
Amy Boney: The Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is where healing begins for abused children in the Southwestern Judicial Circuit. Lighthouse CAC provides a coordinated, multi-agency approach to the investigation, intervention, and treatment of child abuse.
CACGA: What would you like the community to know about the professionals who work there?
Amy Boney: Employees of the organization are visionaries who hope to make everyone they meet an ambassador for its mission. We envision a world where children belong to strong families rather than live in ‘at risk homes’. We see children playing unencumbered rather than concerned with the threats of ‘stranger danger’. We see the challenges our communities face in rural South Georgia and collaborate to strengthen our work plans and strategies to overcome the statistics. We believe in solid partnerships, strong collaborations and supportive networks.
Brad Ray is our Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. Brad is the former owner of an advertising and public relations firm for over ten years and co-owner of one of the largest and most successful privately owned college newspapers in the country. Brad, at the age of 23, became a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (Florida’s equivalent to Georgia’s CASA program). In 2007, he received The President’s Call to Service Award, the highest honor bestowed to a volunteer by the White House. He serves on the Advisory Board for the Office of the Child Advocate and the Governing Boards of the National CASA organization and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia. While doing all of this, Brad still has had time to color with one of our 4 year old victims on the floor while she waited to be interviewed. Did I mention he squeezed in earning his MPA last year?
I am our CAC Director and Forensic Interviewer. I have 21 years of experience in the field of sexual assault, 15 years of experience as a CAC Director; extensive experience in the areas of substance abuse, family and child assessments, social and mental health work, forensic interviewing, and child advocacy; a Bachelor and Master’s in Social Work from the University of Georgia and Valdosta State University respectively; a wealth of experience working in rural communities, and is a trained facilitator of Stewards of Children and is currently training in Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I provide forensic interviews, consultations, assessments, testimony, drafts protocols, provides prevention and education workshops and crisis counseling. I also chair Child Fatality Reviews and MDT meetings and frequently drive Brad and Karan crazy.
Karan Albritton is our Advocacy Coordinator. She was hired 13 months ago. Karan retired from DFCS after 30 years of services and started with us the day after she retired. Karan was known for being a compassionate hard working DFCS Supervisor and she has continued that same reputation with the Lighthouse CAC. When Karan is not buried in MDTIS (our tracking system) she is on the phone with parents, making referrals for children, networking with local agencies for services or items needed for families or she is consoling parents during Forensic Interviews. She is also the back-up Forensic Interviewer for Lighthouse CAC. Karan brings decades of training, professionalism, compassion dedication and all ‘the right stuff’ a CAC needs to served children and families effectively.
CACGA: What would the Southwestern Judicial Circuit be without the center?
Amy Boney: We think it is better to look at the formation of the Lighthouse CAC to get a picture of what the Southwestern Judicial Circuit was willing to do to bring a Children’s Advocacy Center to fruition. Judge Lisa Rambo had long seen a need for a local CAC to work with suspected victims of child abuse through cases in her juvenile courtroom. In collaboration with Juvenile Court, the District Attorney’s Office, Court Services and SOWEGA CASA, the long-awaited program was born.
Over the summer of 2012, the SOWEGA CASA board voted to create the CAC and began seeking funding for start-up costs. Superior Court Chief Judge R. Rucker Smith committed misdemeanor fees collected through Court Services to be used as seed money for initiating the program.
The Court Services program provided $40,000 that first year and made a long-term commitment to fund the CAC. In addition to this money, District Attorney Plez Hardin committed local five-percent funds, the Mattie H. Marshall approved a grant for the program and Georgia Southwestern State University provided additional space on their campus to house the facility.
Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center began services October 22, 2012. While awaiting the space provided for by Georgia Southwestern State University, Sumter County Department of Family and Children Services graciously provided space for the CAC. Three hundred children have been served since the opening of the CAC with forensic interviews, therapy and medical referrals, multi-disciplinary team review and expert witness testimony. The CAC serves all of the Southwestern Judicial Circuit, which includes: Lee, Macon, Schley, Sumter, Stewart and Webster counties. The Lighthouse CAC has integrated quickly in the circuit by participating in community events; information fairs and co-sponsoring the 2nd and 3rd Regional Child Abuse Symposiums.
The community at large has been very generous to the Lighthouse. Delta Kappa Gamma, Lee County High School’s FCCLA, SOWEGA CASA Board of Directors, private foundations and Debbie Hallman’s Charlie’s Lunch Ministry have all started the CAC off with generous donations of supplies, items for children served and locally raised funds. Court Services and SOWEGA CASA funding laid the foundation, and our community partners have ensured a solid future for the children it will serve today and in coming years. The community would not have a centralized unit to provide tracking, forensic interviews, medical and mental health referrals, multi-disciplinary team case reviews, parent education, follow up and advocacy were it not for the formation of the Lighthouse CAC. However, were it not for the community, the Lighthouse CAC would not exist.
CACGA: How can people in your community become involved?
Amy Boney: The people in our community are really great at getting involved. We have students who ask us to speak at the schools. Lee County High School’s ‘Miss Lee County High’ pageant sponsored by FCCLA has made ‘child abuse’ the platform for their pageant and donated their ‘People’s Choice’ donations to Lighthouse CAC for 3 consecutive years. Our CAC has 24/7 volunteer opportunities for Advocacy with victims. We also provide internships. If you are not listed as a mandated reported, pretend you are. As a human being, we should ALL report suspicion of abuse of children to 1-855-GACHILD or call local law enforcement. Sign up for a Stewards of Children workshop with Lighthouse and learn how adults can protect children from sexual abuse. Stop by the CAC and take a tour. We love to inform our community with a visual of what we do.
CACGA: Why do you do what you do professionally?
Amy Boney: As most of the people I am surrounded by, I think I am ‘called’ to do what I do. Those of us working in the CAC world have the best jobs on the planet. We work in the presence of greatness every day. How often does one get to witness true, unadulterated bravery? We watch tiny hands draw out unspeakable crimes and then give us high fives at the end. We watch the teen girl or teen boy reveal for the first time a long held secret too painful to share, until that moment when they know they are safe. Sometimes we even have the opportunity to tell parents the fantastic news that absolutely nothing has happened to their child. But when it has, we have over a dozen people on that Multi-Disciplinary Team to lean on, work the case and review with. Frankly, it often feels like a second family. So, if you ask me why I do what I do professionally, why would I do anything else?