Child Advocacy Center a step closer to reality
by Rachel Davis
Dec 07, 2012 | 1785 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walker County’s Child Advocacy Center is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to local officials and community members who have made it a priority.

Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair announced Tuesday the center had completed the process to become a 501(3)(c) nonprofit, which means donations to the center and their effort are now tax deductible.

CACs specialize in conducting interviews with children who have been victims or witnesses of violent crimes. Alabama allows these interviews to be introduced in court to avoid traumatizing the child further. Often these children have been physically or sexually abused, although Adair pointed out that sometimes the children were physically unharmed but need special handling to help them recall a difficult event.

As an example, Adair introduced two children who had been witnesses to their parents’ murders, including the daughter of Essence Duncan, who was just 3 years old when her mother was killed. He also introduced the son of Brandon Reid, who witnessed his father’s murder earlier this year and provided police with information that led to two arrests.

For cases like these, Walker County currently contracts with the Prescott House in Birmingham to perform interviews. This enables the children to receive help and support that they need and strengthens the prosecution of the criminals, but Prescott House has a primary duty to handle their local cases first. That can mean long waits for critical interviews and delayed prosecution on the cases in Walker County.

Members of the Walker County Children’s Advocacy Center Board, representatives from local law enforcement agencies and community members, as well as several local lawyers attended the meeting. Along with Adair, District Judge Henry Allred has been a driving force behind the creation of this center. He spoke Thursday regarding the importance of these centers from a judge’s perspective.

“It is really a great need for our community,” Allred said.

Circuit Judge Hoyt Elliott also attended the meeting and voiced his support for the creation of the center. He reinforced Allred’s statements about the importance of having properly-conducted interviews in court.

Adair said that state funding is years away and may never be available. Instead, he insists, this must be created, supported and run by the residents of Walker County.

“If we can’t do this as a community, we aren’t much of a community,” Adair said. “If we can’t protect these young people, then what are we doing? These children were brave enough to stand up, and now it is time for us to stand up for them.”

One of the most immediate needs for the center is a location. Adair and other board members are hoping that someone can donate a location or funding to assist in securing a location so that construction of the physical center can begin.

The board has decided to appoint Raleigh Dunham as the center’s first program director. Until a facility can be obtained, Dunham will be working in the DA’s office.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to the center at  Walker County Children’s Advocacy Center, Post Office Box 2187, Jasper, AL 35502. Anyone who wishes to help in other ways or who can help secure a location for the center, contact Dunham at (205) 384-7272.