Child Advocacy Center holds annual Blue Ribbon Ceremony

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Covington County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) hosted its annual Blue Ribbon Ceremony to bring awareness to this important topic on Thursday, April 20.

The Blue Ribbon Ceremony marked the eighth year that the Covington County Child Advocacy Center has been providing services to the children of Covington County. The ceremony opened with a song led by the Community Hospital Preschool Class. The children sang “Give It Your Best” by Jack Hartmann to the delight of those in attendance.

District Attorney Walt Merrell, who serves as the Chairman of the CAC Board of Directors then spoke to those in attendance.

“As Frederick Douglas once said, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ All of us…you, me, us… we are building strong children here at the CAC,” Merrell said.

He went on to give thanks to the social workers, law enforcement officers, counselors and parents who were in attendance for their commitment to the children in our community. Merrell highlighted the services provided by the Multidisciplinary team (MDT) members through the CAC, including MDT investigation and prosecution of allegations of abuse, forensic interviews, counseling, and child abuse medical exams.

The CAC also partners with Shon Bentley and Wendell, the facility dog, to provide support for children who come to the center. The goal of the MDT is to conduct quality investigations of incidents of abuse, as well as to provide for the recovery, healing and restoration of the children and families served at the CAC.

In 2023, the CAC added the child sexual and physical abuse exam to the services provided at the center. Prior to the addition of this service, children who needed this specialized exam had to travel to Birmingham to receive care.

“Our Board of Directors is committed to identifying the needs of the children and families we serve and taking steps to meet those needs. The addition of the medical exams to our services is due to this long-standing commitment,” CAC Executive Director Mindy Barton said.

In addition to celebrating the work of the CAC, Merrell shared with those in attendance the plans for a new facility for the CAC at 122 6th Avenue in Andalusia.

Merrell stated that renovations will begin soon to the building that was recently purchased from the City of Andalusia.

“As we focus on building strong children, we look also to building this house where we will provide that support to them. This house, that was once a library, and then the hub of activity for an entire school system, is a house that has always built strong children. Now, thanks to this community and the City of Andalusia, it will build strong children again,” he said.