Andalusia Council paves way for new Child Advocacy Center office

Published 1:00 pm Monday, December 12, 2022

The Covington County Child Advocacy Center will be moving into a new home next year after striking an agreement with the city to purchase a property.

The city council voted to declare the property located at 122 6th St. — known to some local residents as the old superintendent’s office — as surplus and allowing Mayor Earl Johnson to enter into an agreement to sell the property to the CAC.

The property will be purchased at a price of $126,000, which the mayor said matches the appraised value.

The council did request two provisions to the sale. First, should the CAC decide to sell the property in the future, the city would receive the first opportunity to buy it back. Secondly, councilmembers requested signage be placed on the property to bring awareness of the building’s significant history as the city’s first library and later as the office to the former superintendent of schools, Oscar Zeanah.

The Child Advocacy Center has been located at its current location near Andalusia Health since 2015, where it rents a building. According to Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell, the CAC hopes to be moved to its new location by spring. The district attorney’s office is one of the partner organization that oversees the center.

“We are looking for security in the longterm. Right now, we are just a tenant and by buying we secure the future of the Advocacy Center. Secondly, we have grown so much that we really are bursting at the seams (of the current location). There’s no room to grow there. The new location will serve our needs better for the longterm,” Merrell said.

CAC officials said the new building would require some renovations prior to moving their services.

“There will be a substantial undertaking before we can move to the location, but we will immediately begin working on that process,” Merrell said.

The Child Advocacy Center provides a child-focused multidisciplinary response to child abuse to prevent the re-victimization of severely physically abused children and sexually abused children. The multidisciplinary team approach involves law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical, forensic interview, mental health and victim advocacy services.

Since 2015, the CAC has provided 748 forensic interviews.

In July 2016, the organization added a fully trained SANE-P nurse who is on-call to provide acute and non-acute medical exams to children who have been sexually abused or suffered serious physical abuse. Prior to this, children and their families had to travel to Birmingham for such services.

In July 2022, mental health services were added and since that time 2,735 hours of play therapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy has been provided to child abuse victims at no cost.