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Every hour of every day, there is an allegation of child abuse in Alabama, and unfortunately, child abuse is a prevalent issue in every county and community in the state. Nationally, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds, and 1-in-10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, and the Twin Cedars Children’s Advocacy Center in Opelika is working hard to raise awareness about how our community can help children and families facing abuse.
Children who have been abused or neglected often show signs of trauma and are hesitant to trust adults who want to help. Secondary trauma often occurs when a child must interact with various police and medical professionals and recount their story over and over again after the abuse has occurred, and these kinds of environments can also be intimidating to children.
As an alternative, following a report of child abuse or neglect, law enforcement or DHR refers families to the Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center, the only CAC in Lee and Macon counties. There, children can avoid the intimidating and often re-traumatizing experience of seeing various nurses, interviewers, and law enforcement officers.
Instead, the CAC provides forensic interviews, pediatric sexual assault medical exams, and therapy for victims all in one location that is specifically designed to be comfortable for children. Forensic interviewers at the Twin Cedars CAC use an evidence-based protocol by the National Child Advocacy Center that ensures interviews are objective, developmentally appropriate, and legally sound. These interviews then serve as the basis of the investigation and prosecution of the case for the community partners. The CAC also provides victim advocacy, therapy for victims and non-offending family members, referrals to community services, case tracking, and multidisciplinary team case review from start to finish.
Twin Cedars CAC in Opelika provides all these services free of charge to children and their families in East Alabama as a program under Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. TCYFS is a nonprofit organization that operates three programs in East Alabama as well as various programs in Columbus, LaGrange and Macon that provide care for children and families facing trauma.
The CAC is able to combat child abuse and serve families in need through community support. To learn more about how one can make a difference in the lives of children who have been abused and neglected, contact Katherine Cochrane at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit twincedars.org.