Board members and their children and grandchildren lined up near the center’s outdoor sign to cut the traditional ribbon, while camera shutters clicked and officials offered their praises. The center is located at 306 Bradley St., Carrollton, in the old mill building which also houses the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Center.
“I thank each of you for your support,” Advocacy Board Chairman Emily H. Cole told the audience. “Everybody pitched in and did their part for the children of Carroll County.”
Cole said more than 20 children have already been interviewed at the center since it opened in February. She said because of confidentiality laws, she could not discuss the particulars of their cases.
“Some (interviews) will help clear the accused, while others will allow prosecution,” she said.
The center provides a central location for all county efforts to help sexually and physically abused children by offering prevention, intervention, therapy and collaboration. It is equipped with the necessary technology to allow forensic interviews by trained personnel, according to state standards.
Before the Carroll County Advocacy Center came into operation, children needing forensic interviews had to be taken to agencies such as Scottish Rite in Atlanta or Twin Cedars in LaGrange, which often caused delays of two to three weeks.
Tracy Lewis-Martin, a Carroll County native and a 1993 graduate of Mt. Zion High School, was recently named center director. She has worked the past 18 years in the child advocacy field, the last 13 years with Carrollton attorney T. Michael Flinn, a special assistant attorney general.
Furniture for the center was donated by Tanner Health System and Tisinger Vance law firm. Much of the renovation work was done by Carroll County inmate labor. The site has been secured rent-free and utility-free for two years, through the assistance of former Commission Chairman Bill Chappell, Cole said.
“It’s a great day for the children of Carroll County,” said Nancy Chandler, CEO of Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. “They can stay in their own community, with people they are familiar with. It’s so much better than having to drive to other cities for the children to be interviewed. The people who made this possible are phenomenal. They worked so hard and got it together so fast.”
District Attorney Pete Skandalakis of the Coweta Judicial Circuit said the center provides a place where children can feel safe while being interviewed.
“The purpose of this center is for the children,” Skandalakis said. “It’s not to build cases, but to get to the truth of the matter. I don’t want anyone to think its existence is for police or prosecutors. The whole purpose is to help children in need. It’s a blessing.”
Cole said the center will be open during May 4 Mayfest activities to allow people to tour the facility.
Photo by Carole Scott, StarNews