By Morgan Bryce
For more than 26 years, the Opelika-based non-profit Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center has worked to provide justice and treatment for child abuse victims in Lee and Macon counties.
Working alongside local law enforcement and DHR, TCCAC staff conduct forensic interviews with victims, offer counseling and family consultation and provide on-site medical examinations to determine what happened in a case, free of charge.
“Anytime that there’s a situation of abuse or neglect, a formal report has to be made, either to law enforcement or DHR. Once that’s done, they will look at the case, find out exactly what’s needed, and if an interview of the child is needed, then that’s where we’re called in,” said TCCAC Program Director Tina Evans.
The majority of the cases Evans and her staff see pertain to sexual abuse, but can also include physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.
According to statistics, Lee County DHR received 864 child abuse/neglect reports in 2016, which involved more than 1,200 children. Of that 1,200, 266 children were indicated for abuse/neglect and were sent to TCCAC for treatment.
Evans said there is an increasing need for their medical clinic, as the number of sexual abuse incidents in the county rise.
“Right now, our medical program is booming. We used to see roughly two (patients) a month, and this week, it’s been three very severe cases of sexual abuse. Our numbers on the medical side are skyrocketing,” Evans said.
Another popular initiative at TCCAC is their parent support group, which started last November. Evans said the eight-week program is led by a family advocate and therapist, who offers counseling, encouragement and advice to parents of victims struggling to cope with their situation.
“I feel that it’s really difficult to just focus on a child, and tell that child, ‘just say no. just do this, just do that,’ when parents are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting their children. So, we want to give the parents additional support,” Evans said. “The support group is to one, let them know that they’re not alone, and two, there are other people out there who have been through what they’ve been through.”
Evans said future plans for TCCAC include the expansion of their medical program with the hiring of a second nurse, as well as finding an interpreter to accommodate for Opelika’s growing Hispanic community.
Despite the changes and the growth at TCCAC, Evans stated that she and her organization’s mission will always be to serve and meet the needs of its patients.
“When you’re able to see a child go from an unsafe environment to a protective environment, by all means, that’s the best outcome of all. I’ve been in this going on 20 years … I don’t think you go into this business without having and wanting to make a difference in the life of a child,” Evans said. “So when you do see that, and you see good outcomes for kids, that’s definitely something that keeps you going.”
TCCAC is located at 1810 Corporate Drive in Opelika. For more information or to donate, visit www.twincedars.org.