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Local agencies present case study at conference


SARATOGA SPRINGS—The Mental Health Association of Columbia Greene’s Child Advocacy Center presented a case study at the 2023 New York State Children’s Alliance Leadership Conference in Saratoga Springs, October 3.

Columbia County DCADA Ryan Carty, ADA Joyce Crawford, State Police Investigator Craig Morrison, DSS Sr. Child Protective Services Supervisor Alissa Mullins, CAC Director Julianne Baumann and CAC Advocate Renielle Yankana-Tracey made a presentation at the state Children’s Alliance Leadership Conference. Photo contributed

The Columbia County District Attorney’s Office, Columbia County Department of Social Services, New York State Police and Child Advocacy Center of Columbia and Greene Counties were chosen to present a criminal case involving child maltreatment as a model of successful collaborations to the Child Advocacy Center leadership and partner agencies in New York State, as well as representatives from National Child Welfare Agencies and organizations.

Both the Child Advocacy Center and District Attorney have contributed to the high success rates in investigating and prosecuting sex crimes. Since 2017, the District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the Child Advocacy Center, has achieved a 93% conviction rate for prosecutions involving child maltreatment, according to a press release.

“Our CAC is known for our strong commitment in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse in our community. Our multidisciplinary team is also recognized for its cohesiveness and collaboration, working together to ensure that child victims and their families are supported from the moment of disclosure, throughout the trial and as long as it takes for a family to heal,” Julianne Baumann, director and trauma specialist at The Child Advocacy Center said in the release.

The multidisciplinary team is not only between the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and the Child Advocacy Center; it also includes law enforcement agencies, child protective services, mental health and medical professionals. The National District Attorney’s Association has stated, “Multidisciplinary child abuse investigation teams (or MDTs) in association with child advocacy centers show the greatest potential for cost-efficient and effective prosecution.” Columbia County is one of the few counties where assistant district attorneys are present during interviews, offering legal guidance to forensic interviewers at the earliest point in the investigation, and they continue to aid in the investigation as it unfolds.

“I truly believe the advent of the Child Advocacy Center is one of the most important programs that have been instituted in my 30-plus years working in criminal justice. With the assistance of the CAC, the number of child interviews is reduced to the absolute minimum necessary. Our CAC also accompanies victims and their families to court, Grand Jury and other legal proceedings,” District Attorney Paul Czajka said in the release.

The presentation was provided by Columbia County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty, Assistant District Attorney Joyce Crawford, New York State Police Investigator Craig Morrison, Department of Social Services, Sr. Child Protective Services Supervisor Alissa Mullins, CAC Director Julianne Baumann and CAC Advocate Renielle Yankana-Tracey.

The presentation provided insight on how CAC and MDT members work together simultaneously in high-risk situations to ensure the safety of families, locate suspects, investigate, and successfully prosecute cases of child abuse and maltreatment and provide medical treatment, therapy and advocacy. All services provided by the CAC are free and confidential, based on grant funding provided by the Office of Victim Services and Office of Children and Family Services, and donations.

Funds help purchase wildfire fighting equipment

GHENT—The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is now accepting applications for $976,622 in Volunteer Fire Assistance grant funding to help rural fire departments protect public safety and natural resources. The application deadline is November 15.

“When wildfires break out in different parts of the state, DEC’s forest rangers are often joined by members of volunteer fire departments. This grant program bolsters the local capacity to fight wildland fires, so firefighters can protect their family, friends, and neighbors, and their surrounding communities,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release.

The Volunteer Fire Assistance grant program is funded by the U.S. Forest Service and administered by DEC forest rangers. Fire departments will receive 50/50 matching funds up to $2,500, a $1,000 increase from last year. In 2022, the program provided $1,500 grants to 444 fire departments.

Only expenses directly related to wildland firefighting suppression efforts are eligible for funding. These include the purchase of portable pumps, portable backpack pumps, hand tools, fire hose, approved lightweight fire-resistant clothing, hard hats, turnout gear, portable radios, generators, and dry hydrants. Expenditures not directly related to firefighting, such as search and rescue, acquisition of land, construction of buildings and facilities, major apparatus purchases, and maintenance items are not eligible for funding.

Eligible fire departments include: those that serve a single town with a population under 10,000; those that serve multiple communities, one of which is a rural town of less than 10,000 residents; and fire departments in towns with a population of 10,000 or more that meet the application requirements. Fire departments that receive a grant award must complete all required grant paperwork.

For applications and additional information about the grant program, visit the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/2364.html, call DEC at 518-402-8839 or write to NYSDEC, Division of Forest Protection, 625 Broadway 3rd Floor, Albany 12233-2560.

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