EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County will soon start $60,000 in renovations at the Child Advocacy Center to add an additional interview room for victims of sexual or physical abuse.
The Madison County agency connects with a child following a traumatic experience. Part of the CAC mission is to reduce trauma to victims under 18 and coordinate an investigation for a better prosecution success. The center is at 101 E. Edwardsville Road, Wood River.
Chairman Kurt Prenzler said there was a concern about the costs of the renovation project, however they’ve been defrayed thanks to Rob Schmidt, the county’s new director of facilities management.
“I promised to reduce the levy by 10 percent, and plan to keep that promise, however an immediate need came for a grant opportunity that would allow for the CAC to expand,” Prenzler said. “This is something that is needed. It helps to protect our children.”
Prenzler said Schmidt came up with a plan to reconfigure the CAC space and do the work in- house, thus reducing costs.
Schmidt said there is adequate room at the current site for the renovation to add a second interview room and waiting rooms. The project is expected to be completed by the start of summer.
Due to the increase in the number of interviews conducted each year, the CAC is planning to increase its staff and is in need of the second interview room. The CAC is receiving grants to expand its services and there must be a 25 percent match for the grant, which can come from the county or donated funds.
CAC Director Carrie Cohan said the agency plans to hold fund-raising activities and seek out other methods to cover the additional costs.
Madison County CAC was created in 2002 for the purpose of interviewing children in a friendly atmosphere because of allegations of sexual or severe physical abuse.
The interviews are conducted at the request of law enforcement or the Department of Child and Family Services.
CACs exist across the country as a way to bring multiple agencies together to investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual abuse against children. The model was created by the National Children’s Alliance and has been replicated in 800 CACs across the country, including Madison County.
Without a CAC, a child may end up having to tell the story of an abusive situation over and over again as they speak to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges and others. The model brings all of these agencies together, allowing a child to only have to tell the story once to a forensic interviewer.
The interviews are videotaped as police and other investigators watch on a live feed in the next room, able to ask additional questions if necessary.
Prenzler visited the CAC earlier this week.
“When a child is a witness of abuse, whether to himself or to others, a police interview room isn’t the best place for them to talk about their experience,” Prenzler said. “It can be difficult and the atmosphere at the CAC is more comfortable for them.”
— From the Illinois Business Journal