g3 Grant Update: Center for Child Protection
By Lindsay Rosenberger
High Point University Sophomore
and Impact Austin Marketing Committee Intern
In 2017, the Center for Child Protection (CCP) received a grant of $6,800 from Girls Giving Grants (g3). The award was designated for CCP's Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program. This funding played a vital role in supporting the program and its invaluable therapy dog, Mickler. This funding played a vital role in supporting the program and its invaluable therapy dog, Mickler. CCP's own blog includes a write-up about the program here. Let's explore how this grant was utilized and the significant impact it had on children who must testify in court.
Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program: Supporting Child Witnesses
The Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program was developed to provide support to children who need to testify in court. In Texas, every person accused has the right to face their accuser, which can be an intimidating experience for young victims. Therapy dog offers comfort and companionship to children during their darkest times. While not every child needs Mickler, he is a help to many. Whether testifying or waiting in the courtroom, Mickler is there to provide a sense of security and solace. Mickler not only stays with kids during their testimony; he is present during the whole 2-3 day process. Mickler will often stay with the kids in a waiting room to help them, especially if their primary caregiver is speaking and not with them. 90% of victims are abused by family or close friends, so Mickler provides comfort and calms kids down during this stressful process.
Mickler himself is named after a soldier who died in Afghanistan. In the future, any dogs that the CCP adds to their program will be named after other fallen soldiers.
Mickler's Role in Courtroom Testimonies
Mickler's presence has made a profound difference in the courtroom experiences of children. One notable instance involved a 6-year-old child who had been a victim since the age of 3. Despite lacking any preparation or therapy, the child found comfort in Mickler's presence. While testifying, the child kept looking at and petting Mickler, who helped him navigate the difficult process. At one point, the child was so stressed that he actually rolled his body out of the witness box, but Mickler’s calm presence allowed him to go back and finish testifying. With Mickler's demeanor providing stability and support, a guilty verdict was ultimately reached.
In another case, Mickler accompanied three terrified teenage girls who had to testify against their abuser. Their legal case has been delayed several years, causing even more family conflict in the process. Mickler's presence comforted and soothed them, allowing the girls to have the strength and resolve to share their stories. By offering unwavering support, Mickler empowered these girls to find their voices, resulting in a conviction. Even if all cases don’t result in guilty verdicts, Mickler's support allows kids to tell their stories. Sometimes victims need to look their abusers in the face and confront them in order to help heal internally.
Utilization of the g3 Grant
The $6,800 grant from g3 was crucial in funding the Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program. With this grant, Mickler was acquired from Assistance Dogs of the West as a fully trained therapy dog. The g3 funds covered the expenses associated with Mickler's training, veterinary care, and necessary supplies. Mickler's extensive training included mastering 96 commands, making him exceptionally skilled and reliable in the courtroom environment. Additionally, the grant facilitated the training of the program's staff to work effectively with Mickler. The handlers were taught how to train Mickler efficiently and to seamlessly integrate him into their work. Mickler's exceptional abilities, coupled with the training provided through the grant, have ensured that he can fulfill his role effectively and adapt to various situations without relying on physical cues.
Expanding the Program: The Need for Additional Dogs
Mickler's success in the Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program has highlighted the need for more dogs like him. The program aspires to have several dogs to meet the growing demand for their services, but CCP acknowledges that it is a significant commitment.
Starting with two or three trial dogs at the puppy stage, they hope to work with breeders to ensure success in training. Having a mix of younger and older dogs allows for consistent training and provides opportunities for socialization and observation among the dogs. While Mickler himself may not engage in extensive play with other dogs due to his age, the program recognizes the value of dogs learning from each other and the benefits of having a team of trained therapy dogs. The program aims to establish an in-house breeding and training initiative, partnering with host families. These host families would undergo a rigorous process, and the dogs would spend around 10 weeks with them, being socialized and trained to work in a courtroom environment.
Mickler Mondays: Social Media and Educational Awareness
Mickler's presence extends beyond the courtroom. CCP has leveraged social media platforms to raise awareness and engage with the community. #MicklerMonday posts have become a great vehicle for sharing updates, educational content, and stories related to Mickler's work. Through these online interactions, people can reach out, ask questions, and learn more about the program. It is not just about child abuse; the program also emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships with people. Mickler's messages are easily accessible, facilitating discussion of important topics and creating awareness.
Journey with Mickler's Handlers
Miriam Jansky and Amanda Van Hoozer are the dedicated handlers who manage Mickler's schedule and training. Mickler is not just a working dog; he is part of their family. While Miriam has another dog at home, Mickler loves his work and the staff. He has formed strong bonds and has his favorite people. He has become accustomed to the daily routine, knowing when lunchtime is, and even strolling up and down the hallways with the staff. Mickler's familiarity with the workplace and the people around him has made him an integral part of the team.
Mickler's schedule is carefully planned in advance, considering family visits, forensic interviews, and court appearances. The team ensures that Mickler's presence provides the most benefit and support to the children involved. Mickler also participates in various CCP events, including the Dancing with the Stars fundraising event in December, which is organized for the Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program. During these events, Mickler proudly wears a tag and brings joy to everyone present.
COVID-19 and Obstacles
The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges for Mickler and the program. While some staff members continued to work in-person shifts, Mickler was not present every day. Due to safety measures, if a room was being cleaned or if someone wasn't wearing a mask, Mickler couldn't visit. However, he always wanted to be with his beloved handlers, especially Miriam. Adjusting to new restrictions was not easy for Mickler, who craved the presence of the people he loved.
Opportunities to Support the Center for Child Protection
CCP is renowned for their numerous events , some of which attract Impact Austin members, like the annual PlayBingo Ladies Luncheon.
Numerous volunteer opportunities exist as well. CCP's Kid's Closet welcomes donations, and they offer a birthday box initiative, where small gifts are provided near a child's birthday. These simple gifts aim to bring comfort to children in need.
Thanks to the g3 grant, the Canine Courtroom Accompaniment Program has been able to make a lasting impact on children who must testify in court. With Mickler's unwavering support and the dedication of the handlers and staff, the program continues to empower children, provide comfort in difficult times, and contribute to a safer and more supportive environment for young witnesses