In St. Clair County, it could apply to the St. Clair Children’s Advocacy Center, also known as The Children’s Place.
This non-profit agency began its 20th year of operation in January.
The mission of the St. Clair Children’s Advocacy Center is to foster family development and to enhance family functioning by coordinating services for children and families involved in child abuse. The center also facilitates cooperation between agencies, offers training for professionals, and provides education that will increase public awareness and prevent child abuse in the community. The St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office, along with the St. Clair County Department of Human Resources, have been instrumental in bringing and maintaining the advocacy center in the county.
In the mid 1980s, a group named “Friends of Children” began parenting classes with the support of area churches and individuals.
In 1986, puppets were purchased and an abuse prevention puppet show was developed and presented to third-grade classes at local schools.
In 1988, this group began meeting in Judge Bill Hereford’s garage apartment in Pell City.
Children’s Trust Fund money was secured and a school-based program was implemented.
In December 1992, the by-laws were developed and the Articles of Incorporation were signed by Linda Walls, Sara Beth Blair, Brenda Jones and Jo Chesbrough.
A house designed specifically to meet the needs of the center was donated through the generosity of a St. Clair County family, and The Children’s Place has been in operation in that location since January 1993.
They gained their 501(c)(3) non-profit status in March 1993. The first director, Debbie Watkins, was hired in July 1993. They became a member of the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers in November 1993.
The Children’s Place has a child-friendly environment serving those children and families who have been victims of child abuse. Agency representatives and professionals who deal with abused children gather and coordinate their work at The Children’s Place. Children who are believed to be either sexually or severely physically abused and their non-offending family members come and receive sensitive support and professional assistance. The difficult process of evaluating, interviewing and evidence gathering takes place in the non-threatening environment that is the Children’s Advocacy Center. Counseling is also offered to those children and families.
Many residents of St. Clair County are not aware there is an advocacy center and do not know the important services that are provided.
In 2012, the 607 children and families that were directly involved in the trauma of child abuse know about it and are thankful for its presence in our county. Ideally, families will never need the provided services. However, if faced with the issue of child abuse, The Children’s Place is here.