Mark Smith is the Executive Director of the Power House for Kids in Toccoa.
CACGA: What is the Power House for Kids?
Mark Smith: The Power House for Kids is a child advocacy center that serves the Mountain Judicial Circuit. Habersham, Rabun and Stephens Counties make up the Mountain Judicial Circuit. Our mission is to provide a safe place for children who are victims of sexual or physical abuse to come and tell their story, one time, to people who care and want to make a difference in the life of that child. Under our roof we provide the following services: forensic interviews by a specially trained interviewer, full medical facilities including the collection of rape kits, trauma focused therapy through our relationship with Turning Points Counseling which is located in our building and we assign an advocate to work with the child victim throughout the investigative process, judicial process and the healing process. We want to see the child safe and a perpetrator off the street.
CACGA: What would you like the community to know about the professionals who work at the Power House for Kids?
Mark Smith: The professional staff at the Power House for Kids is one part of a much bigger group of professionals all working together for the child known as the multidisciplinary team. This multidisciplinary team is made up of law enforcement, medical personnel, DFCS workers, school counselors, advocates, therapists and interviewers who each play a role in the crisis and the follow up of each case. We each have a role in working a case and making sure the interests of the child are best met and represented. This team wants to see the child be able to return to normal relationships in the future. The Power House professionals on this team meet the challenge any time a child needs help, day or night, 24/7. We are always on call and ready to respond. We believe in children and that every child has the right to grow up without being sexually or physically harmed.
CACGA: What would the Mountain Judicial Circuit be without the Power House for Kids?
Mark Smith: I feel the Power House for Kids helps to fill a need in the Mountain Judicial Circuit. Through accepted protocol any child sexually or physically abused in the Mountain Judicial Circuit is brought to the Power House for Kids. We provide a central place that is properly staffed to meet the needs of a child in crisis and assist other members of the team in working each case. In this manner there is one central location for all abused children to come to that has specific operating standards so every case is worked in the same manner which assures consistency of service. Without this protocol and the Power House each county would have to set up their own method of dealing with children in crisis and the level of service may vary from county to county. Consistency is good for the child and especially good for any resulting legal court process that may follow a crisis situation.
CACGA: How can people in the community become involved with the Power House for Kids?
Mark Smith: Confidentiality of our client base and information limits direct contact with clients of the Power House for Kids and volunteers. So, hands on work with the Power House is difficult. However there are many other things that volunteers can do to assist our organization. First, as we work with kids we have items we go through quickly. Some of these items are snacks, juice boxes, paper supplies, etc. The community and especially civic and religious groups have been very generous in providing these items for our clients. In addition, we have a quilting group that provides small loving quilts to be given to clients who have to disrobe for an examination. These quilts are the drapes used in an examination and they go home with the child.
We also believe in community awareness and education and we work with various community groups and schools to train in Darkness to Light. The community can become involved by helping us find places and groups to present this preventative program training to. The goal is to raise awareness of child abuse in the community.
CACGA: Why do you do what you do professionally?
Mark Smith: My background is different from that of most CAC directors. I bring a financial and management background to our organization having been a bank regional president for over 35 years. All this time I fully supported and believed in the mission of helping domestic violence and sexual assault victims and I volunteered and gave of my time and resources to this cause. I find that children have a very special place in my heart and it hurts me to see what some children have to go through. I work with the Power House for Kids to help make a difference in their lives. I am an advocate here for children as well as being the director of the center.