A Child's Voice opens new location in Social Circle

COVINGTON -- A Child's Voice child advocacy center, which serves child victims of sexual abuse within the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, recently reached another milestone when ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held at its new 2,500-square-foot facility in Social Circle.

The new building is at 216 Brookstone Place and replaces the former location at the Loganville Community Ministry Village.

"We are proud to be able to help children. That's why we call it A Child's Voice to speak and advocate for those children who otherwise nobody would speak for," said Executive Board Chairman and Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton.

The center is dedicated to bringing law enforcement and social services together to investigate cases of child molestation and conduct forensic interviews and medical examinations on young victims.

"We've been averaging approximately 200 children a year for the Alcovy Circuit," Cotton said, adding that law enforcement agencies who use the center include the Walton and Newton County Sheriff's Offices and the Monroe, Loganville, Social Circle, Covington, Oxford and Porterdale police departments.

"It was originally the idea of Ken Wynne when he was district attorney," Cotton said. "What it does for the District Attorney's Office is to give them a uniform investigation. They know who the forensic examiners are who have been trained professionally to ask the questions without them being leading questions. The nurse practitioner is able to do the exam and this uniformity cuts out the possibility of errors which increases the conviction rate which is what we're all after -- getting pedophiles and abusers off the street."

Cotton said the board came together as a group in 2006 and opened their doors in Loganville in 2009, but has since outgrown that space.

"We were kind of on top of one another and it hindered our ability to do what we need to do," he said. "A child advocacy center is more than just a place to conduct an interview and exam. Eventually it is counseling and family counseling, too, so we had to have space for that. As grateful as we are to the Loganville Community Ministry Village, we outgrew their location."

The center began with part-time employees, but now has two full-time employees and is financially stable enough so that they were able to purchase their new building, paying less for the mortgage than they would have had to pay in rent for a space of comparable size.

"We feel like it really secures our future in the Newton and Walton area," Cotton said. "We are extremely excited about it."

Cotton said the availability of a center such as A Child's Voice had made the investigation and exam necessary in a case of child molestation less traumatic for victims and their families, as well as saving time for law enforcement personnel.

"It used to be two detectives, the child, the child's mother and other children if they were in the home -- it was an eight-hour day," Cotton said. "If the report was done today, it might be two weeks before we could get an appointment (with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) ... This allows us if something happens today, we can usually have an appointment by tomorrow at our center."

The center is unique, however, in that it still uses of Children's Healthcare when conducting medical exams.

"We were the first to partner with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta with our tele-medicine link," Cotton said. "While our nurse practitioner is doing the actual medical exam, it is live through closed circuit TV with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta so that doctors there, in conjunction with the nurse practitioner, conduct the exam. It is all recorded and they take pictures and video for evidence."

Board members from both Newton and Walton counties oversee and set policies for the center. Among them is Amy Greenway of Walton County who serves as vice chair; Lee Garrett of Monroe who serves as treasurer; Rachel Taylor who serves as coordinator from the Department of Family and Children's Services; and Executive Director Nancy Burgess.