Child Advocacy: Keeping children safe
By Tyania Freeney
In November, the Russell County Child Advocacy Center (RCCAC) will celebrate 20 years of service in our community. Over the past two decades, the center’s staff members have dedicated their lives to stopping and preventing child abuse in the Russell County area. Their mission is simply to “protect the innocence and simplicity of childhood,” but the task of accomplishing this mission is anything but simple.
There are several resources that are geared towards helping children who are found in sexually and physically abusive situations, including: counseling, medical exams, play therapy, forensic interviews and evaluations, court accompaniment and support groups. These services are available at no cost to the victims. The CAC also works closely with a group of agencies referred to as the Multi-Disciplinary Team, which consists of the Department of Human Resources (DHR), Russell County Sheriff’s Office, the Phenix City Police Department, the district attorney’s office and medical and mental health professionals. All of these agencies are trained to help eradicate these situations.
“What is unique about our facility is that we are one out of a handful that has on-site medical rooms in the entire state of Alabama,” said Lynn Hammock, executive director. “We provide a variety of services including medical exams, counseling, interviews […], so that people don’t have to go to multiple places. We try to keep the case as tight as possible so that we can prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of the law.”
In addition to all of this, the CAC has made extensive efforts to educate children about abuse through the development of Kids Engaged in Education and Prevention, or “KEEP,” a school-based program that equips children with age-appropriate teaching on personal safety, abuse prevention and how to recognize and deal with abuse if it occurs. Through this program, they are able to reach approximately 8,000 children per year.
The center also provides out-patient therapy for minors who exhibit sexual behavior problems through the Specialized Treatment for Adolescents without Residential Services, or “STARS” program. This program was developed as a result of members of the team finding, through research and actual case evidence, that sexual behavior problems begin long before the offender reaches adulthood.
The RCCAC is reported to have one of the highest success rates in the country. The national average for children that go through similar programs, who never have to re-visit these facilities and are never charged with any criminal offenses, is between the upper 70th and the lower 80th percentile. The RCCAC success rate is about 88 percent.
It takes a team to make this kind of success happen, and Hammock makes it clear that this team is available at any time to provide education to anyone who seeks it.
“We are willing and ready to go and provide seminars that educate people about abuse at any time of the day and on any day of the week,” Hammock said.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the group. We will be happy to come out. The way I see it, if we can save just one child, the effort is worth it!”
For more information about the Child Advocacy Center of Russell County, visit rccac.org/.