Laurie Whitworth is the Executive Director of Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center in Royston.

CACGA:  What is Harmony House Child Advocacy Center for kids?

Laurie Whitworth:  Harmony House Child Advocacy Center serves the Northern Judicial Circuit. Elbert, Franklin, Hart, Madison and Oglethorpe Counties make up this circuit. Our mission is to provide a central location, using multidisciplinary team approaches to the evaluation, intervention, prosecution, and treatment for children (and their non-offending caregivers) who have been alleged victims of child abuse.  No single agency, individual or discipline has all the knowledge, skills or resources to provide needed assistance to abused children and their families. Harmony House Child Advocacy Center combines the wisdom and professional knowledge of child protective services, law enforcement, prosecution, medical professionals and mental health professionals by bringing together all of these entities and individuals under one roof in response to an allegation of abuse. Harmony House Child Advocacy Center maintains the focus on the child and works to ensure that the system designed to protect children is able to do so more effectively.

CACGA: What would you like the community to know about the professionals who work at Harmony
House Child Advocacy Center?

Laurie Whitworth:  Harmony House staff consist of professionals who are qualified, highly skilled, extensively trained and most of all passionate about making a difference in the recovery of a child who has experienced abuse and the family who are walking the path with them.

Laurie Whitworth is the Executive Director of Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center in Royston.

Laurie Whitworth is the Executive Director of Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center in Royston.

My experience working with families and children began in 1989 in Charlotte N.C. with a “Families at Risk Intervention Program” and since that time I have served on several non-profit boards of agencies providing services to families and children. In 2006 I became the Executive Director of Harmony House Child Advocacy Center. I have been fortunate to work with a very insightful and enthusiastic Board of Directors and community at large who had the vision of providing victims in the Northern Judicial Circuit with a Child Advocacy Center to meet needs in a way that encourages healing and promotes justice.

Adrienne Bass serves as Family Advocate Supervisor and Forensic Interviewer for Harmony House. Adrienne works with victims and their families providing services that include, 24 hour, weekly and then monthly follow up contact throughout the families involvement with Harmony House. Ms. Bass also provides medical and court accompaniment, facilitates non-offending caregiver support groups and coordinates the monthly Multidisciplinary Team Meeting.

Wendy Chitwood serves as the Volunteer/Outreach Coordinator. Wendy has worked with families and children since 1998 and served in many capacities with Communities in Schools of Georgia, as well as the Director of a Community Youth Center. Wendy works with local communities to recruit, train and coordinator volunteers to support and maintain services for victims at Harmony House. Wendy also promotes the services and raises awareness of both child abuse and sexual assault in the Northern Judicial Circuit. Wendy is a trained Darkness to Light Facilitator and works with area college’s to provide campus awareness through Title IX.

Kim Brewer serves as a family advocate and Parenting Services Coordinator.  She is the facilitator of the center’s Nurturing Parenting Program. Kim has a background both in the Division of Family and Children’s Services and Community Mental Health Services. Kim provides Nurturing Parenting group sessions as well as In-home sessions to parents and non-offending caregivers to build upon a families strengths and engages them in skill building activities.

CACGA:  What would the Northern Judicial Circuit be without the center?

Laurie Whitworth:  Harmony House Child Advocacy Center has made a tremendous difference in the lives of not only the families we serve but those who prosecute these crimes against children. Prior to HHCAC, families could feel lost within the system itself, unable to navigate, understand or effectively communicate with all that the system encompasses. HHCAC can provide services and other resources that families would not have access to or knowledge of without the agency. HHCAC wants the best outcome for each family based on that families need, not the needs of other involved parties. While justice is always at the forefront Harmony house staff understands that justice looks differently to the different disciplines involved in the prosecution of a case. Harmony House advocates really listens, spend time with and recognize a family’s needs making a profound and positive difference for many victims.

Providing the professionally trained services of HHCAC staff has been a turning point for law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office who can now rely on expert witness involvement in a case as well as the support of a team who is working with the victim and can provide detailed information about the victim as well as what supports are being taken part in. Advocates can be a valuable link between victims and families and the Prosecutors office.

HHCAC’s role in providing a safe, relaxed atmosphere for children is the largest benefit for victims. A place that doesn’t feel scary, where everyone comes to them, and where they feel believed, and supported is itself, a true beginning to the healing of a child and family.

CACGA:  How can people in your community become involved with the Harmony House Child Advocacy Center?

Laurie Whitworth:  Opportunities for community members are bountiful at HHCAC.

  • Volunteers are always needed to share in daily activities, fundraisers, awareness campaigns and special events.
  • Becoming educated on child sexual abuse and sexual assault by attending trainings on prevention and intervention.
  • Support our efforts through funding and/or donations.
  • Get your community or faith based group involved in the cause.
  • Procure speaking engagements.
  • When speaking to Local and state public officials, make them aware of the benefits of CAC’s in Georgia and in the community.
  • Advocate for Legislative changes at both the state and federal level that benefit victims.
  • Visit our website and like our Facebook page and share the information learned and activities and events scheduled with others in your social network.

Community support is what keeps us strong, motivated and accessible! HHCAC is fortunate to serve in our community and our community has been very supportive!

CACGA:  Why do you do what you do professionally?

Laurie Whitworth:  Why do I do this work…so many times as I sit in a courtroom being questioned by a very skilled defense attorney I ask myself why???  Early in my career at the Child Advocacy Center I did what I always do when I’ve had a particularly bad day…I called my Mom! As I proceeded to tell her of the horrors that I endured in court that day she abruptly interrupted and I’ll never forget her words:  “That little child is the victim, dear, not you so stop complaining and do your job.”