Advocacy center planned
More than 21,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect were reported to the State Department of Human Resources last year.
While the statistics are scary, help is soon on the way in Morgan County.
Morgan County District Attorney Bob Burrell recently announced the hiring of Hartselle resident Amy Rakestraw as a child advocate for the DA's office. Part of her job will be working to establish a Child Advocacy Center in Morgan County.
The facility will work with children and their parents to end the cycle of abuse.
"The good thing about an advocacy center is it is shaped by the community's needs," Rakestraw said. "The statues are loosely drawn so that we can provide the particular things we need. For example, we can form support groups for the non-offending parents if that's what we feel the community needs."
Child advocacy centers are a relatively new concept in Alabama. They are designed to serve a variety of needs, including working with child abuse victims and their families. Advocacy centers also do work with child victims who will have to testify at the trial of their offenders. The centers are often set up to look like a home, designed to make the children feel comfortable in the surroundings.
Rakestraw has been on the job for about a month and has spent much of her time meeting with representatives of local government, law enforcement agencies, DHR, PACT and mental health professionals.
She said the next step will be establishing a board of directors for the advocacy center.
"We're just taking baby steps with this now," she said. "Once the board is formed, we will start making some policy decisions."