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Child Advocacy Center shows off expanded office

The Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center opened its doors to the community Monday to show off its newly expanded office.

Lauri Cothran, executive director for the center, said the nonprofit moved into its new office on the 400 block of Broad Street, which is in the same building as Alabama Ag Credit, two years ago.

Now, the center has expanded due to the addition of new employees and new programs.

“I think the biggest thing happened when we got the grant to hire two employees. That allowed us to expand services,” Cothran said. “It made us need the extra space, and that is a great thing because we’ve been able to add quality of life.”

The Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center is a nonprofit organization that provides a safe location to conduct forensic interviews for abused children. Cothran said more than 500 interviews have been conducted by the CAC in Dallas County. The CAC also provides services for abused children in Bibb, Hale, Perry and Wilcox counties.

The center comes into the picture when an allegation of child abuse is made and a report is filed with either a law enforcement agency or DHR.

“They call us and we set up an interview. When the family comes to us, we have the trained interviewers, the multi-disciplinary team watches the interview … and then the other thing we do is follow up with them and check on the kids,” she said.

The center maintains communication with the child throughout the year and keeps up with each case as it goes through the court system. The center’s new location started out with just a few rooms, and has expanded to include many new additions.

“When we first moved here, we did everything in this office,” Cothran said.

Now, the front office houses Cothran’s office, an office for an outreach coordinator and a conference room for a multi-disciplinary team to meet in each month, which consists of the center, the Department of Human Resources, the District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement and other agencies.

The center added an additional space in the back of the building called “The Way Back.” The expansion includes a counseling room, a room where law enforcement and DHR can monitor an interview over closed-circuit television, family waiting rooms and an interview room.

“I love that the interview room is so private, and then at the other end the families can talk to law enforcement or DHR without having the children right there,” Cothran said.

One of the more convenient changes is parking beside the building and not on Broad Street.

“What I really like is that the families can come and park back here. They’re not on the street, and it is much more private,” Cothran said.

Cothran said the number of child abuse reports is up in the counties the center serves, but that does not necessarily mean there are more cases of child abuse.

“Our number of reports are up in some counties, and I focus on that being a positive thing because if they are not reported, we don’t have the opportunity to help them,” she said. “Does that mean there is more child abuse going on? No. It just means that we’re doing a better job of getting people to talk about it and actually do something about it. There are tons of child abuse victims out there, and it’s never been reported.”

The center is currently working on individual child sponsorship opportunities to help pay for an interview, provide advocacy several gifts for the child throughout the year.

For more information on the CAC and the sponsorship program, call (334) 875-0890.