Child advocacy center receives grant
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A child advocacy center in Morgan County is no longer just a wish for District Attorney Bob Burrell and others involved in the investigation of crimes against juveniles. It took a big leap toward becoming a reality on Friday, thanks to the award of a $98,500 federal grant to help get it started.
The grant was presented by U.S. Representative Bud Cramer, D-Alabama, at the Morgan County Courthouse. On hand to receive it were Burrell and two other members of the Morgan County Child Advocacy board of directors and district judges David Breland and David Bibb.
"When I was the district attorney in Madison County, I took an active interest in the issue of child abuse when I saw firsthand the way the judicial system dealt with neglected and abused children," Cramer said. "In many instances, young children, who had just been through traumatic experiences were being forced to retell and relive their nightmares over and over again. So, we started a program to revolutionize the way the judicial system handled child victims of sexual and physical abuse."
Cramer said there are more than 600 child abuse centers throughout the country.
"These centers provide a unique multi-disciplinary approach to the investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases that help minimize the trauma suffered by victims," he said. "When Bob Burrell told me that the groundwork was being laid for this center, I wanted to do something to help move the center forward. I know that we are at the threshold of this center and still have a long way to go before it is up and running. Once it is completed, we will take the original child advocacy center model and expand it to meet the needs of Morgan County."
A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Cramer secured the funding from the 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which President George W. Bush signed into law last December. He said part of the money came from the Justice Department and the other part from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"This way, you will have funding for both operational and facility expenses. When you're up and going, you'll join the state network of advocacy centers and receive $10,000 to $12,000 a year for operations," he added.
"This is an enormous shot in the arm for us," Burrell said. "It will definitely lead to us having our own child advocacy center and enable us to investigate crimes involving child abuse in an environment that is more friendly to the victims."
Burrell said he and other child advocacy board members, Capt. Kenneth Collier, Teresa Young, Dr. Betty Vaughan and Gail Hurst, will get together in the near future to determine how to put the grant to its best use. A director for the center and its location are two topics that will be addressed.
Burrell said the initiative to establish an advocacy center started about two years ago and has resulted in associate membership in the state association, 501-C tax deductible status and about $15,000 in private donations.