That’s because Nick’s father, Mike, was a juvenile probation officer and treasurer of the board of a nonprofit group that created what is today the SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta.
“It’s weird that Jinger and I met before this happened to Nick,” Mike Smith said this week, referring to Jinger Robins, the executive director of SafePath.
The nonprofit group formed about 1990, and Robins was hired in early 1995. SafePath officially opened its own offices in 1996.
In between, police, medical professionals, therapists, social workers and others were coming together to find a better way to help child-abuse victims, who until then went through myriad interviews and offices in a process that was not very comforting to a child.
“The whole focus was to help a kid out,” Mike Smith said. “We were doing the right thing. Helping kids. It was fun.”
SafePath’s mission is to reduce the trauma for children who have been sexually or physically abused.
Robins said the attack on Karmen and Nick Smith in their east Cobb home shocked her and others.
“This was so close to home,” Robins said. “It changed a lot of lives.”
Today, SafePath serves nearly 3,000 children and families each year. It has 14 employees, including therapists and intervention specialists, and a budget of just $1 million, which is financed through government grants, foundations, and donations. It also houses Cobb Police’s Crimes Against Children unit.
“We’re kind of A to Z for children who are coming into the system under an allegation of abuse,” Robins said. “All of our services are free of charge. We work hand-in-hand with law enforcement, the Department of Family and Children Services, the District Attorney’s Office, mental health professionals, medical professionals, and we coordinate with them as they do intervention investigations, prosecution and treatment of cases of child abuse.”
When there is an allegation of child abuse, law enforcement will bring the child to the SafePath center, where specially trained plainclothes officers conduct interviews and arrangements for medical and mental-health care are made. From there, the team meets weekly, Robins said.
“We’re looking at, what is the next step we need to make for these children and families?” she said.
Mike Smith left the field shortly after his son was attacked and now works as a retail supervisor.
“I was trying to help people out, but then I had to focus on helping my son,” he said. “But some good has come out of this. You want people to know there are places like SafePath that help families. I was there before my family even needed help. How coincidental is that?”