'Most critical work' lies ahead after 4 children left motherless by double murder, advocates say
BATON ROUGE - Four children of varying ages are now without a mother following Monday's double shooting on Richmond Street in Baker that left Christin Parker, 32, dead. Her nephew, Brandon, 26, was also killed.
One of Parker's daughters was inside the home and alerted neighbors.
Now, the Baton Rouge Children's Advocacy Center is stepping in to help the children pick up the pieces, as they do throughout the year in similar cases.
"This last year has been an extraordinary year," Toni Bankston, CAC's executive director, said. "It's been a brutal year."
CAC, which receives referrals from law enforcement or child protective services, helps investigators better understand traumatic events through the eyes of children who bore witness. Even as it strives to provide authorities with assistance, Bankston says the best interest of the children, who they work with, comes first.
"Trauma happens, there's an investigation, but the really hard work and the most critical work happens after that," Bankston said.
From there, CAC has a process to determine what services a child might need, which vary on a case-by-case basis.
"What is the level of the trauma," Bankston says, as she describes how specialists evaluate each case. "Does the child want to hurt themselves? Are they at risk for that? Then, we have people here also, whose lense is, who's going to care for the child? Has the crime actually impacted the family so much that there's no one left to care for the child? Do they need a placement?"
According to a neighbor, one of Parker's older daughters was inside when the shooting happened Monday, only because she had stayed home from school.
Bankston, who could not discuss the specifics of any case during an interview with WBRZ Wednesday, says trauma for children is typically more severe the more they fear their life is being threatened.
"If they watch a parent suffer a death through trauma, that's terrifying for children on many levels," Bankston said. "Because the parent represents the locus of safety for a child. When a parent's taken, the child's sense of safety is gone."
Bankston says CAC is seeing a significant rise, she estimates roughly 30% over the past year, of violence involving children.
For the children involved in those cases, she says the shock initially acts as a quasi-shield for them, until reality sets in.
After Monday's double murder, which concluded with the suspect Eric Smith's death in Biloxi after a lengthy car chase with law enforcement, four children will soon be facing that reality Bankston mentions
"Even well after we take children and put them in a safe place following an episode like that, it takes many months before they actually feel safe in their body again," Bankston said.
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