New advocacy center opens in Black Belt

Published 12:46 am Saturday, October 30, 2010

Before the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center opened in Selma, parents or guardians drove more than 50 miles to centers to find solace for a child victimized by sexual abuse.

The new center, located on Broad Street, officially opened Thursday, although cases have been referred to the center since September.

“It really means more children have the interview process available because the transportation is a big issue,” said Lauri Cothran, director of the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center. “Often we can do an interview in the morning, and then they can go on to school if they’re up to it, or afterschool the family will come here.”

Each child meets with a forensics interviewer who talks the child through the event in question to gather information, which can later be used as evidence if the case is brought to court.

The center is a collaborative effort of the Dallas County district attorney, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, Selma Police Department, Cahaba Mental Health Center, Dallas County Juvenile Probation Services, Dallas County Board of Education and Selma City Board of Education.

These entities communicate to ensure every child sexual abuse case receives proper attention.

The Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center serves children in Bibb, Hale, Perry, Dallas and Wilcox counties.

“All nine of these organizations are working together to make this a better situation for those who face [sexual abuse] in these five counties,” Cothran said. “It’s a really good way to keep children from falling though the cracks because you’re meeting at least once and month and updating everybody.”

Children are referred to the center from police departments or the Department of Human Resources.

“If anybody is suspicious that a child is being abused, it is mandatory that they report it,” Cothran said.

To report a sexual abuse incident, contact the Selma Police Department at 874-3124 or the Department of Human Resources at 874-1400.