Children’s Advocacy Center to open here soon

Published 12:16 am Thursday, September 17, 2009

SELMA — The process has begun to establish a children’s advocacy center to serve child abuse victims in the 4th Judicial District.

The move came out of a Think Tank meeting held by state Rep. Yusuf Salaam.

He invited Jannah Bailey , excutive director of Child Protect, Children’s Advocacy Center in Montgomery to talk about the history of the centers, the multidisciplinary team approach to investigating child abuse cases and the standards required for establishing an advocacy center in a community.

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The effort is supported by District Attorney Michael Jackson, whose 4th District covers Dallas, Bibb, Hale, Perry and Wilcox counties.

“The 29 children advocacy centers in the state of Alabama are part of the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers,” said Bailey. “The network provides training and oversight to each center to ensure they continue to meet standards of operation and have the trained professional staff to serve the child victims.”

Each advocacy center is a non-profit. It is governed by an independent board of directors that assist law enforcement and the Department of Human Resources in their investigation of child abuse.

“The children’s advocacy centers provide a neutral, child friendly environment and conducts a forensic interviw on the child when there are allegations of abuse,” Bailey explained. “the purpose of the interview is to help discern the truth in the allegations.”

Pat Hatcher will direct the new center. She said she is ready to roll up her sleeves and begin the work.

First, Hatcher is searching for a place to call home — a stand-alone facility to house the staff and provide a neutral, child friendly enviornment.

“Right now we have one officer who carries children over to Montgomery when they are in an abuse situation,” Hatcher said. “If that officer is not available or cannot go, that child is at risk.”

Hatcher said she’s looking for people to become part of the effort to help abused children.

She may be reached at 205-533-4267.