History

In 1991, the Floyd County Child Abuse Protocol Committee recommended the establishment of a coordinated system designed to respond to child abuse cases.  The committee specifically recommended the establishment of a children’s center and the creation of a multidisciplinary child abuse investigation team. After detailed research and much effort, the Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center, known as “Harbor House”, was established in the fall of 1994.

Mission

The center serves as a neutral facility at which all sexual abuse cases brought to the attention of the police and the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) may be evaluated.   Harbor House’s mission is

  1. to provide a safe and caring place to evaluate the child who may have been abused,
  2. to encourage the collaboration of social and legal agencies for the benefit of the child, and
  3. to at all times lessen the trauma suffered by the child.

Harbor House Service Statistics

  • Forensic Interviews conducted per year, on average: 200
  • Approximately 90% of children referred for interviews/services are due to allegations of sexual abuse. The remainder are severe physical abuse, witness to child sexual or physical abuse, and witnesses to criminal activities.
  • More than 7,200 children have been interviewed at Harbor House since it was established.
  • Safety Awareness For Everyone (S.A.F.E) Program is presented by Shannon Bond and her (puppet) friend HermenaBelle. SAFE helps children develop necessary safety skills to prevent possible abuse and aids in supporting survivors of abuse by making them aware of available resources. It also addresses bullying and teaches other personal safety skills. From the start of the 2007-2008 school year through the finish of the 2019-2020 school year, Shannon has reached more than 18,500 elementary school children.
  • Stewards of Children training is provided through Harbor House. It is a sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It is presented, upon request, to adults who work with children – churches, youth centers, school personnel, etc. It can be presented to any group, big or small, that is interested in the program.
  • Harbor House currently provides family and child advocacy services to every client that we see. We also provide on-site trauma-focused therapy services for the children that we see, free of charge.

General Child Abuse Statistics: (local, state, and national)

  •  A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. (2010 national study)
  • An estimated 638,000 children are the confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect each year.
  • An estimated 4 children die every day from child abuse and neglect; 70% are under the age of 3.
  • 86% of children who are sexually abused are victimized by someone they know.
  • Approximately 1 out of every 100 children in Georgia were somehow involved with a substantiated incident of child abuse in 2016.

Staff

Joe Costolnick

Executive Director

Joe graduated from Berry College with a degree in Psychology and soon after joined the Rome City Police Department. After almost 17 years with the Rome City PD, Lieutenant Joe Costolnick accepted the position as ED at Harbor House in 2017. Joe also serves on the Executive Board of Directors for the Sexual Assault Center in Rome. Additionally, he serves as the Vice-Chairperson of the Floyd County Drug Court Advisory Board. Joe lives in Rome with his wife Emily and children, Sophi and Tyler.

 

Page Sanders

LMSW- Trauma Therapist/Forensic Interviewer

Page graduated with her Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2011 and her Master’s in 2012, both from the University of Georgia. Page began her work in Child Advocacy in 2014 at the Tree House CAC in Winder. She was honored to be given the opportunity to write a chapter for “Words of Hope and Healing,” a collaborative book sponsored by the Child Advocacy Centers of Georgia. In 2018, Page moved back to her hometown of Rome to serve this community and hopes to continue this service for many years to come. Page enjoys spending time with her family and would one day like to open a children’s bookstore.

Miriam Pitts

Forensic Interviewer

Miriam graduated from Berry College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Family Studies. She plans to pursue her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Miriam currently serves as the family advocate at Harbor House and hopes to one day become a Marriage and Family Therapist. She loves to talk and her favorite discussion topics include her family, horses, music, and all things people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brie Bishop

Family Advocate and Child Advocate

Brie is our new Family and Child Advocate. She graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2022 with a degree in Educational Sign Language Interpreting and a minor in Criminology. She is currently obtaining her master’s in International Relations and Foreign Policy online at Liberty University. Brie’s future career plans are to work as a communications liaison on a federal level. Brie enjoys reading (preferably books of the thriller genre), musicals, baking, and her favorite movie franchise is the X-Men.

Kevin Hall

Special Events/ Marketing Manager

Kevin graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. Since beginning work at Harbor House in 2017, Kevin has held many roles, including Child Advocate, Family Advocate, and now Special Events and Marketing Manager. He organizes our fundraising events, manages our social media, and collaborates with sponsors. His hope is to grow the Harbor House programs so they can reach more children and families. Kevin enjoys video games, movies, Star Wars, golf, and just overall having fun!

Primary Service – Forensic Interviews

Interviews are conducted by trained personnel and are digitally recorded, preventing children from having to talk about their trauma repeatedly to different agencies.   Centralizing these services in a warm, home-like environment reduces the anxiety and confusion that may result from evaluating the child in multiple, sterile surroundings with fearful connotations (such as the hospital and police station).  Cases are staffed by a team of representatives of all agencies involved in the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of sexual abuse, including: Child Advocacy Center staff, medical professionals, law enforcement, DFCS, the District Attorney’s office, the Child Victim Advocate, juvenile court professionals/personnel, and mental health professionals.  This interdisciplinary approach to case management fosters a collaborative exchange of information and the development of a coordinated plan of action that will best serve the child.

Other Harbor House Services provided

The center offers in-service training to agency personnel, both on- and off-site.  Harbor House family and child advocates help the families of abuse victims identify appropriate community resources for medical care, counseling, education, and financial support. The center also provides trauma-focused therapy services to all clients at no cost to the family. Harbor House oversees the implementation of an elementary school child abuse prevention program offered in Floyd County called the SAFE program. The center pays for the cost of the program to be implemented in local schools by request. Prevention, early and supportive intervention, counseling, and education are our best tools in breaking the cycle of abuse. Harbor House also offers Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children© training. This is a revolutionary sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

 

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