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Child Advocacy Center gets more space, privacy to serve victims of abuse
Dee Jaye Miles, right, the supervisor of the Child, Youth and Families unit at the Green County Human Services, and Green County Child Advocacy Center coordinator Penny Dunlavey both stand inside the family room while giving a tour of the future home for the Green County Child Advocacy Center in Monroe, Jan. 21. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - Eight years after the Green County Child Advocacy Center cut the ribbon at Monroe Clinic, the organization plans to settle into new digs this April at a location that offers more space and privacy for victims of abuse.

The building at 2809 6th St., previously used by the highway department, was given to GCCAC by the county in August, and since then volunteers and Green County Human Services staff have worked to get the location ready for an operation that involves more than a few moving parts.

"An advocacy center is designed, fundamentally, to be a one-stop shop so all the agencies, persons and organizations involved in dealing with a child who has been the victim of abuse or neglect, and their family, can have a coordinated effort to provide services to them," explained Dee Jaye Miles, supervisor of the Children, Youth and Families unit at Green County Human Services. "So the goal (is) we all work together - as opposed to law enforcement interviewing a family in their own schedule, and then the D.A. talking to the family, and then the social worker talking to the family - the goal is for all of us to be on the same page."

With so many entities involved after a report of child abuse is received, Miles said it is vital that all the groups "coordinate together so the family and the child have an experience that isn't disjointed."

More space allows the center to be more efficient at what it already does, Miles said, with new features that include handicap accessibility, a private restroom, soundproof rooms and an enclosed waiting area for children and their families.

"It will be more private for families, more private for children. ... It will basically provide safety, security and privacy for families that was harder to achieve in the other space since it was located in an area that couldn't be fully enclosed.

"It will allow us to do more things on site so children can be seen there for any follow-up appointments with a counselor; the family can be seen by victim advocacy right there on the space," she said.

"(The) key point is having all the players present, so that each of these people don't re-interview the child if the child is only interviewed once, with everybody witnessing that interview."

Volunteers and Green County Human Services staff members have donated their free time to the remodeling project, which in addition to adding walls and making the center handicap accessible, has included many gritty hours of painting, cleaning and carpeting.

It's easy to see why so many volunteers have felt the need to chip in, Miles said. Of the 14 child advocacy centers in Wisconsin, GCCAC is the only center in an area as small as Green County, which points to the level of care individuals in Green County have for victims of abuse. GCCAC conducted 35 interviews in 2012, and averages about the same annually. Miles estimated the center has done about 200 interviews since the center conducted its first interview in the spring of 2007.

"Everyone involved has been very excited about it, and we've had lots of volunteers and lots of community support and donations," Miles said.

"It's rare for a small county to have a center, and to have such a good, systematic approach for child abuse where everybody is on the same page to discuss and work cooperatively together," she said. "It's good for families, it's good for children, and it's good for the safety of the community.

"I think there's a number of good benefits: one, that everyone is working together to both protect the child, provide the child and family with the safest, most friendly environment to tell their story, and that we're all working as a team (to) prosecute defenders. It aids in the prosecution of people who abuse."

Those interested in making a donation to GCCAC can contact the Children, Youth and Families unit at 608-328-9384.