BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. - With the help of the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), there can be healing after sexual or physical abuse. This is evidenced in the words of a 12-year-old victim, who wrote the following on the Center’s blackboard: “The Children’s Advocacy Center is amazingly helpful!!!”
The first Children’s Advocacy Center was formed in Huntsville, Ala., in the early 1970s. A group of compassionate and caring individuals realized that a child of abuse was often re-traumatized when talking to authorities.
“A victim must relay the story to police, children’s services, the prosecutor’s office, and undergo a medical examination,” explained Gena Frye, executive director, Children’s Advocacy Center. “The purpose of the first Center was to bring all of those agencies together under one roof where the child could tell his or her story in a safe and protected environment.”
In 1981, the CAC of Sullivan County was the first center of its type to open in the state of Tennessee. The CAC is a child-friendly place where the child victim of sexual and severe physical abuse can receive the help they need to deal with the trauma of abuse. A team of professional investigators work together to reduce the trauma victim’s experience and enhance the ability to respond to child abuse. The CAC provides hope and healing to victims and non-offending caregivers.
The CAC uses a joint investigative approach in which information flows seamlessly among professionals in charge of the case. The CAC helps families understand the investigative and court system and provides needed resources and services at no cost to the child or family. The goal is to help the child cope with the trauma and move toward healing.
CAC also provides community programs for the school system, including Happy Bear and Kids on the Block. Happy Bear is geared toward pre-school and kindergarten and teaches children about their personal safety zones.
“We teach them that is inappropriate for an adult to touch them in the areas of their body covered by a bathing suit,” Frye said.
Kids on the Block teaches third and fourth graders what is considered abuse.
“We teach them that it is not abuse if their parents take their Nintendo away for bad behavior. But that it is abuse if a parent or caregiver hits them in a violent manner,” she explained. Many times following this program, the CAC will receive referrals of potential physical abuse.
Another program, Stewards of Children, is geared toward adults and informs adults that it is their responsibility to report suspected sexual or physical abuse.
“We tell them it is their responsibility to ‘React, Respond and Report’ because in Tennessee if any kind of abuse is suspected, it is mandatory to report it,” Frye stated.
Frye pointed out that although all suspected abuse must be reported, it does not necessarily mean all cases are confirmed. The CAC uses a team approach, called the Child Protective Investigative Team, to investigate all allegations of sexual or physical abuse.
“The team meets twice a month and reviews all information on every case to determine if there is abuse and the extent of that abuse. All of the allegations must be investigated because you can’t take the chance that a child is left unprotected.”
The Children’s Advocacy Center is funded by the State of Tennessee, Department of Finance and Administration, Office of Criminal Justice Programs, the NCA and United Way. In addition, the Center relies on donations and volunteers and holds fundraisers throughout the year.
On March 31, there will be a Walk-A-Thon at Indian Trail Middle School. The Center’s annual golf tournament, sponsored by Lexus of Kingsport, will be held April 25 at Cattails at MeadowView. In June, there will be a motorcycle ride. The Center also sells cookbooks, T-shirts and candles to support the program.
To donate, volunteer or for more information, contact The Children’s Advocacy Center at 423-279-1222 or visit the website at www.cacsctn.org.comments powered by Disqus