Meet the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center Staff
Toni Bankston, LCSW, BACS
Toni currently serves as the Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center. A native of Baton Rouge, she has been a child and family psychotherapist for 28 years in the area of trauma and resiliency. Her work in developing and executing several therapeutic curricula for children impacted by trauma and disaster has been published in professional journals. She serves as needed with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, D.C. as a member of the U.S. Faculty and Global Trauma Relief Team in Haiti, Israel and the Gaza territories. In this capacity, she has developed programs and trained other healthcare professionals in trauma recovery, with an emphasis on programs for youth and secondary stress in their caregivers and providers. Locally, her local work in Louisiana has included bringing wellness programs to disadvantaged populations, including the street homeless in Baton Rouge, children in urban school-based settings, and working with Coastal residents in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Isaac and the Horizon BP Oil Spill. She has also served as Adjunct Faculty at the LSU School of Social Work. Toni is a wife and mother of four teenagers.
Charletta S. Montgomery, LCSW-BACS, BCD
Charletta earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Louisiana State University. Charletta is highly skilled in working with at-risk families, individuals, couples, and she possesses extensive experience in program management. She is a firm believer in using evidence-based treatment approaches to effectively intervene and empower families coping with a myriad of dynamics often associated with trauma.
Jasper C. Bridgewater, BSW, LMSW
Jasper works as the Family Advocate for the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center, but also serves as a Co-facilitator Therapist, Forensically Trained Child Interviewer, and Multi-Disciplinary team Coordinator. She is a team member that has a significant background in Child Advocacy and Social Services, focusing on the well-being of children and families. Jasper is an Alumna of Southeastern Louisiana University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is also an Alumna of Southern University of New Orleans where she received her Masters of Social Work, while concentrating on children, youth, and families. She is a two-year IV-E Recipient from DCFS, among other acknowledgements, and has been focused in Child Welfare for over eight years. She is very passionate about meeting the needs of the families and children she serves. At the BRCAC, Jasper works closely with our non-offending caregivers in an effort to gather information to assess the needs of the family, while supporting them after the traumatic event. Jasper continues to work diligently to offer support for the families of our community. Her motto is “to meet clients where they are, while restoring HOPE, one family at a time.”
Karen Arias became the first Bicultural/Bilingual Child Forensic Interviewer in Western North Carolina in October 2013. Before joining the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center in June 2017, she briefly worked as the Child and Family Advocate for HelpMate, a Domestic Violence Center under the Buncombe County Family Justice Center. For 10 years prior, she worked for the 30th Judicial District Domestic Violence – Sexual Assault Alliance as their Bicultural Victim Advocate, assisting Latina victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
She was also the Alliance’s outreach coordinator and regional training coordinator for the Latina Advocacy Program, Children & Youth Exposed to Violence program and Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault Training Team. Karen Arias has presented workshops on Cultural Competency and Working with Battered Immigrants at a State and National Level and has trained over 3,000 individuals such as police officers, social and health department workers, and other domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, as well as Hispanic members of the community in Western North Carolina. In April of 2012, Karen Arias received recognition by the Western North Carolina Crime Victims Coalition for her outstanding service on behalf of crime victims in Western North Carolina.
Robyn Keegan Gilmore, LMSW
Robin received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Louisiana State University. Robyn has worked with a variety of populations doing suicide and violence prevention, including both adult and child survivors of trauma. She also provides professional trainings throughout Louisiana on suicide prevention and crisis intervention.
Prevention/Education Specialist, Clinician
Monica R. Smith is a Licensed Master Social Worker and serves as the BRCAC’s Prevention Education Specialist & Clinician. Monica provides trauma-informed therapy to clients and prevention education outreach pertaining to all forms of abuse to youths within the four parishes we serve. Monica earned her Bachelors of Science in Social Work degree from Southern University and A&M College. Upon completing her undergraduate degree she was offered an academic scholarship into the Advance Standing Program at Tulane University School of Social Work, where she earned and completed her Masters in Social Work.
With a career spanning over a decade, Monica has worked and held an array of titles within the social work profession such as: Sexual Assault & Abuse Therapist for YWCA Rape Crisis Center of Greater New Orleans, an independent contractor for the East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP) Office of the District Attorney’s Rape Crisis Program, Qualified School Social Worker for EBRP School System , Mental Health Social Worker, IV-E Child Welfare Program Manager/Field Instructor, and an Adjunct Professor at Southern University Department of Social Work. Working with children who are victims and witnesses to violent crimes Monica is a firm believer in this quote, “Along with Stop! Drop ! & Roll, with abuse we must teach our children to Yell , Run & Tell!”‘- Carolyn Byers Ruch
Jennifer is a Virginia native who has lived in Louisiana for 13 years. She has worked in various customer service management fields for 15 years. She has also been involved with event coordination for various retail stores including Barnes & Noble for the last 17 years. She lives in Denham Springs with her husband, son and pets.
Dana Guilbeau is a freelance bookkeeper with over 14 years of experience. She has worked with numerous companies and organizations throughout the Greater Baton Rouge area in a variety of different industries. In addition to providing regular bookkeeping services, she specializes in business start-up, accounting software training, business consultations and accounting error correction.
Meet the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Therapists
Gino J. Bertucci, LCSW-BACS
Gino graduated from Tulane University in 1994 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. He also has a MHA from the University of St. Francis. Presently, he is employed as the Program Director at The Secured Forensic Facility for the State of Louisiana. He also has maintained a private practice for the last 15 years and has been a contracted employee with the BRCAC for the past 5 years. He has extensive experience over the past 25 years working in the area of sexual trauma with both children and adults.
Avis Kado, LCSW
Avis Kado has over 14 years of Clinical Social Work experience in a variety of settings with children and families. She is a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT) and is also certified to train clinicians in utilizing trauma focused CBT. She has worked in the school, corrections, and partial hospitalization setting with children and adolescents. She also worked with adults in correctional and acute care medical/psychiatric facilities. In her private practice she provides counseling, clinical supervision, and consultation services and is committed to a standard of excellence in providing quality, ethical, and confidential services. Her desire is to empower others to believe that they can succeed and victoriously meet the challenges of life.
Ernest Gross, LCSW-BACS
Ernest attended Xavier University of Louisiana and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, minoring in Sociology. He later received a Master’s of Social Work Degree at Southern University in New Orleans and became licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Board Approved Clinical Supervisor, as well as a Certified School Social Worker Specialist.
He has thirty-six years of experience as a Clinical Social Worker in the field of mental health.
Presently, he works in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, and also has a private practice. Prior to this, he was employed at Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge as a Social Worker in the sexual offender’s dormitory. Additionally, for fourteen years he worked with the New Orleans Public School System and had a private clinical practice, working with the domestic violence clients referred through the New Orleans Municipal Court System, children, adolescents and families referred through the New Orleans Office of Community Service, and private clients seeking individual and family mental health services in the New Orleans area.
Noël Andrus, MSW, LCSW
Noël Andrus is a native to Montgomery, Alabama and has claimed Louisiana as home since 2006. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker at the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center (BRCAC) and currently serves as a contract therapist there. Her educational background and training includes a Bachelor of Sociology from Troy University located in Montgomery, Alabama (2006) followed by a Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University School of Social Work (2009). She has received further training from Tulane University, Infant Team which provided certification in Infant Mental Health which specializes in families who have experienced traumatic events. Training has also been obtained across various spectrums of child abuse, trauma, and foundation skills surrounding the science of mind-body medicine and techniques for self-awareness and self-expression presented by the Center for Mind Body Medicine. Throughout her professional experience, Noël has been privileged to gain a working knowledge in areas of child and family welfare, child trauma, and acute inpatient adolescent psychiatric settings.
Kaliko has returned to the BRCAC, and has joined the team as a contracted Group Therapist where she co-facilitates the children’s sexual trauma group. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from University of Phoenix with a major in Human Services and is currently working towards her master’s degree and licensure in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Walden University. She is also a trained forensic interviewer, receiving her training from the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Kaliko hails from Hawai’i and brings years of experience working primarily with women and children. She and her fur baby Makana are proud to call Baton Rouge their home.
LaCrystal received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2009 and Master’s in Mental Health Counseling in 2012 from Southern University and A&M College. Working with adolescents and adults, she combines traditional therapy with alternative treatments to achieve the goals they have in minds for themselves. She works with individuals, couples, and families and is committed to providing the highest quality of care to promote healing and growth. Areas of interest include self-esteem, managing emotions, self-forgiveness, trauma, and empowerment.