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Hartselle Enquirer

New advocacy center gets local assistance

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A new agency is helping assist child victims of severe physical and sexual abuse in Morgan County.
The Morgan County Children's Advocacy Center, located at 425 E. Moulton St. in Decatur, opened the first week of August to help children ages three to 17 that have been identified as possible victims of abuse.
Congressman Bud Cramer, D-Ala., attended the Aug. 3 grand opening. Cramer, former Madison County district attorney, started the first Children's Advocacy Center in Madison County, which has since inspired more than 700 centers across America.
The Morgan County CAC works in conjunction with local law enforcement and the Morgan County Department of Human Resources to interview children following reports of abuse.
Once the safety of the child has been insured, a National Child Advocacy Center trained social worker interviews the child at the CAC, a safe home-like environment, and the interview is monitored and recorded. The audio/visual documentation eliminates the need for multiple interviews with multiple agencies and undue stress on the child.
While the CAC is not a shelter, the house has special interview rooms for children and teens, a kitchen with snacks, garden area and puzzle nook where children can relax during the interview process.
The CAC also conducts forensic interviews, an evidence-producing interview for criminal prosecution, and offers non-offending parent and caregiver support as well as community outreach.
CAC Executive Director Teresa Young of Hartselle, a retired Morgan County DHR employee, said Morgan County's need for the agency has grown considerably over the last decade.
"Resources have been stretched, cases have become harder, drug problems are worse, and funding and staffing have been cut," Young explained. "The Morgan County CAC incorporated in 2003, but we needed a regular funding source to begin operations. That money came this spring when Congressman Cramer presented us with a $98,500 grant."
Young said community support for the CAC has been overwhelming from throughout Morgan County, including a $14,000 donation for technology needs from the Boeing Employees Community Fund and a $6,000 grant from Coca-Cola.
The CAC, which provides free services to its clients, is funded primarily through federal, state and local grants.
All donations are tax-deductible.
"The support, small and large, has just been amazing," Young said. "A Hartselle business called out of the blue and donated a good used phone system, copier and fax. The Country Garden Club from the Somerville area is selling a cookbook for $15 as a fundraiser with all proceeds going to the Morgan County CAC"
When Hartselle Police Department Capt. Tom Sparks and Investigator Amy Crouch toured the CAC before its opening and saw the immediate needs of the agency, Young said they were also eager to help.
"They have even mowed the yard and helped in the garden," Young said.
Sparks and Crouch called upon the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club Inc., a fraternal organization, Alabama Chapter VII to organize the first Ride for Kids Poker Run on June 24 in Hartselle to benefit abused children in Morgan County. The event raised $1,000 and Hartselle Wal-Mart Supercenter is expected to match the donation to the Morgan County CAC.
"That's why I love being from Hartselle," Young said. "Your neighbors are always eager to help."
The Morgan County CAC's current needs are for additional volunteers and resources, including office supplies and people skills.
"We need an electrician to remove a few old outlets and fix the doorbell, someone to help finish the basement, and someone to replace broken window panes," Young explained. "There are plenty of opportunities for people to share their time and talents here."
To donate resources or time to the Morgan County Children's Advocacy Center, contact Young at 355-1908.

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