COVINGTON - Soon, children who are victims of abuse in Newton and Walton counties will have a safe place to make their voices heard.
A Child's Voice Advocacy Center will soon be opening its doors to meet the needs of abused and neglected children. The center will provide a space for law enforcement and other trained professionals to conduct interviews with children who have allegedly been abused or neglected, according to Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Wynne, president of the center's board of directors.
The interviews will be videotaped, eliminating the need for the child to tell his or her story multiple times, which will reduce trauma for the child. Taping the interviews will also preserve statements for court purposes and aid with prosecution of cases, Wynne said.
Forensic medical examinations will also be conducted by a pediatric nurse practitioner at the center.
"Prior to this, we had to take them to Scottish Rite for the medical exam. As you can imagine, that only added to the stress of the child and the child's family," Wynne said.
The local center is one of two centers in the state selected for a telemedicine pilot program. While the nurse practitioner examines the child, a doctor can provide guidance and answer questions via video and audio link. The technology will be funded through a grant from Children's Healthcare at Scottish Rite.
The center will temporarily be located on Mill Street in a facility donated by Newton Medical Center.
However, First Baptist Church of Loganville has volunteered to build a permanent facility in Loganville as a community outreach. The facility should be in operation by the end of the year, Wynne said.
The center is being funded through numerous grants from organizations inside and outside Newton and Walton counties.
In addition, Police Chief Stacey Cotton is using up to $20,000 in seized drug funds to purchase equipment for the center.
"This is an opportunity to support an organization that directly benefits law enforcement," said Cotton, who is vice president of the center's board of directors. "It will save us money because we won't have to go all the way to Atlanta, but the bigger picture is that we don't put victims and their families through a situation where we have to postpone the investigation by a week or two while we're waiting to get an appointment."
The center will also provide training for law enforcement personnel and others who work with children to recognize signs of abuse, along with community awareness training.
Wynne estimated annual operating costs would run less than $100,000.
There are more than 30 child advocacy centers throughout the state.
For more information, visit the Children's Advocacy Centers of Georgia's Web site at www.cacga.org.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.