When children come through the doors at the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center in Lincolnton, they are greeted by kind and caring staff into a house filled with healing light, a plethora of stuffed animals and toys. It’s of utmost importance to the staff at the child advocacy center to prevent any further trauma to these children who may have been abused or neglected.
There’ll soon be a new source of comfort for these children. She’s got soft, curly hair and is as sweet as she can possibly be. Her name is Cali and she’s the new child advocacy center therapy dog.
Bringing a therapy animal to the child advocacy center has been a in the works since the house on Policarp Street was remodeled, Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center executive director Sherry Reinhardt said. It was finally made possible through a grant from the United Way of Lincoln County.
“We thought we had that back yard and our idea at the time was to have a facility dog that might greet the kids,” Reinhardt said. “After doing the research and finding the right dog took time and having the funding, being stable enough to support Cali and all of her needs.”
Cali is a Goldendoodle and was trained by Rolling Meadows in Denton. This training facility only uses rescued animals in their program, which are all thoroughly temperament tested before being placed. Victoria Gilmore, a forensic interviewer at the child advocacy center has been made Cali’s handler.
“I didn’t have any prior dog training experience but based on the employees here, I was the one that would have the most time to dedicate to her and be able to continue with her training,” Gilmore said.
While Cali came to the advocacy center with a solid training base, she needed to bond to a new handler which has taken about 30 days. There will be ongoing training for the rest of the time Cali is with the advocacy center which Gilmore will be in charge of. She lives with Gilmore at her home and comes to work with her every day.
“She’s doing really well with her training so it shouldn’t be long before we can start using her with children here,” Gilmore said. “Cali will provide animal-assisted therapy and is there as a comfort item for them. They are free to pet her anytime, they are able to hug her and hold her paw, whatever makes them feel comfortable. We don’t want it to be a scary place here, we want to be like a home environment.”
The Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center is the nucleus of a multi-disciplinary team tasked with helping the abused children and bringing their abuser to justice. They all have their own individual jobs and collaborate to get the job done in a more expeditious manner with the goal of there being less trauma on the victim.
There are have always been several cats living around the child advocacy center and Reinhardt said that even they help comfort some of the children who come there. It makes it feel less clinical and more like a home.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a better fit with Cali,” Reinhardt said. “She’s definitely a people pleaser and is very eager to interact with people. I think that’s just something some animals have and some don’t. I’m not even sure it’s teachable. We’re really looking forward to having her serve our kids and making this world even less traumatic for a child. That’s always been our goal, to do no further trauma. I think having her here will certainly make us be able to provide that. ”