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Child advocacy center promoted by local leaders

Nurses, teachers and agency leaders met Tuesday morning with one goal in mind – to create an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center in Lincoln County.
“It can be done,” said Cathy Purvis, executive director of CAC of North Carolina. “That’s the nice thing – it’s been done all kinds of places. It’s great for kids, and it’s great for professionals.”
The meeting was organized by the Coalition Against Child Abuse, a non-profit agency that has wanted a CAC in Lincoln County since its inception.
Such a center would provide a safe space for abused children. The center would keep interviews with the victim limited, rather than forcing the child to tell their story to a number different agencies.
The Department of Social Services, District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement and other agencies dealing with child abuse cases would all work together through the center.
“It’s to prevent them from further traumatizing the child,” said Purvis.
Representatives from the school system, DSS, Communities in Schools, Health Department, Pathways, Lincolnton Police Department and Department of Juvenile Justice all attended the meeting.
Purvis explained step by step what would be required of a center and what funding would be available for an accredited center.
“You can meet the accreditation standards in a million different ways,” she said. “One size doesn’t fit all, and the reason this can work is you can fit it with your community.”
One large step the coalition made towards creating a center was hiring a director, Kathy Vinzant. Now its focus is on finding a building.
“That’s our biggest hurdle, the place,” said Jane Finger, president of the Coalition Against Child Abuse. “Once we have the place, I think things will fall together.”
Once a location is found, it would provide an environment in which agencies would meet and work together to discuss child abuse cases.
“The dynamic of that interaction is that the knowledge of all those folks begins to influence people,” said Purvis.
In such an environment, ties are made and cases go smoother.
“After a while, everybody begins to trust one another,” said Purvis.
Agency leaders in Lincoln County have already shown a willingness to work together.
“The people in those positions are very supportive of children and children’s issues,” said Finger.
Now she hopes the community will show the same support. Funding such an endeavor is usually not easy.
“It is if you can just get to the people, but a lot of people don’t want to hear it because they know if they hear it, they’ll have to respond.”
She has faith that a building will be donated in the near future.
“If the time’s right, it’s going to happen,” she said.
Until then, the coalition will continue working with Purvis.
“We expect this woman to help us solidify some ideas and clarify what we need to do,” said Doris Little, vice president of the coalition.
by Sarah Grano

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