Child Advocacy Center providing education on child abuse awareness and prevention

Throughout the month of April, the nonprofit will continue its year-round mission but will enhance its community outreach by encouraging everyone to join them.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The Child Advocacy Center is in for a busy month. The organization kicked off its 28th year taking part in the Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month campaign.

Throughout the month of April, the nonprofit will continue its year-round mission but will enhance its community outreach encouraging everyone to join them in child abuse prevention.

“We have children walking through our doors every day regarding reports of abuse,” Grace Geisler, multidisciplinary team coordinator, said.

The CAC sees about 350 new child abuse reports a year. Nearly 700 children walk back through the doors to receive counseling and therapy each year. Each day the CAC is working toward a mission of holding hope for these children, believing in them, supporting them, and seeking justice.

“We have a very unique purpose,” Geisler said.

That purpose is if a report of abuse is made to law enforcement or DHR, the CAC provides a space the child can tell their story.

“We are a nonprofit,” Geisler said. “Not every community has a Child Advocacy Center and it’s just such an important piece of investigating or prosecuting child abuse that these children have a place to come. They don’t have to go down to the jail and tell their story, or to a hospital, or tell their story over and over. They have one place they can come that’s a warm, comforting, child-friendly environment to share their story of abuse.”

The CAC is located in Houston County but provides services beyond reaching Geneva, Henry, and Dale counties. The nonprofit has already raised about $80,000 dollars through its blue ribbon campaign.

“If we can get one abused child the help that they need or even prevent one child from being abused, that’s our goal,” Laura Beth Thomas, community advocate, said.

But they are not stopping there. They ask everyone in the community to join the campaign and bring awareness to child abuse prevention.

“Anyone can help,” Thomas said. “As a member of the community, it is your place to help. Never feel like you’re underqualified for like it’s not your place.”

Warning signs of child abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Changes in behavior
  • Returning to earlier behaviors
  • Fear of going home
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Changes in school performance and attendance
  • Lack of personal care or hygiene
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors

“You don’t have to have proof of if a child is being abused, if you just see those signs and you suspect something is happening that is all you need to make a report,” Thomas said.

To make that report you can call your county DHR, law enforcement, or 911 and you will be directed. The CAC is also available to call to answer questions.

The CAC is hosting an open house on April 8th and 15th from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The community is invited to come to the center for a tour and get a better understanding of the process a child goes through when going.

The nonprofit is also always taking donations. They accept monetary donations, snacks, and stuffed animals for the children they assist.

“Even though we receive money, we receive grants, and we also receive donations, a large part of what we’re able to do is because we have a community that supports us,” Geisler said.

To make a donation, you can call (334) 671-1779 or go to the CAC Facebook page.

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