The Limestone Child Advocacy Center (LCAC) hosted a conference Friday at the Beasley Center bringing together law enforcement, the Department of Human Resources, LCAC staff, prosecutors, judges, CASA workers and more to introduce the multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach in responding to cases of child abuse and neglect. MDT is widely considered best practice in these cases. The conference also featured Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Child Advocacy Center, and Carol Hogue, Lead Instructor of Darkness to Light.

On Thursday night, LCAC board members and staff gathered at Athens High School with Hogue, where they recently honored his work as an advocate with a legacy brick. Hogue is a mother of three and became a child advocate more than thirty years ago after learning that an organist at her church in South Carolina had sexually abused her youngest son.

“It really got me involved in advocacy and it’s a really bad way to find your calling, but if you have to go through something really hard, you want to do something good about it,” Hogue said. “It started with just handing out flyers and pamphlets that talked about Darkness to Light’s five steps to protecting children.”

She said that from there, her role grew into so much more. “I decided I wanted to be a facilitator for their training program. I did that and then I wanted to work for them, so I did,” she said. Finally, she is the main instructor of Darkness to Light, an organization she has been part of since 2007.

“What started as something that impacted our family and seemed awful has now become a platform for advocacy. I can personally participate in the training of people who take this training,” added Hogue.

Darkness to Light’s goal is to help end child sexual abuse by “empowering adults to prevent, recognize and respond responsibly to child sexual abuse through awareness, education and reduction stigma”.

Their approach to empowering others is about honoring the voices of victims and survivors, demanding accountability, making deliberate decisions, valuing diverse partnerships, and believing in a growth mindset.

“It’s great that people are taking this training and having this information as they go through their careers,” Hogue said. “Our desire is to create community change.”

Friday’s Putting the Pieces conference focused on trauma and the MDT response. The conference was made possible by a grant from the Children’s Justice Task Force and the Limestone Child Advocacy Center.