The Schenectady County Child Care Advocacy Center is marking a milestone today with an open house.
The center at 106 Erie Blvd. now boasts 16,000 square feet — double its original size — in which to help children who are victims of abuse and neglect and who are subject to custody cases. The center first opened in 2003.
“The extra space allows us to do double interviews,” said Lynn Chabot, coordinator of the Schenectady County Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team. Team officials will introduce the new facility at an 11 a.m. news conference. The public will be able to tour the center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Last year, the center handled 65 cases. In the first six months of this year, it has seen 55 cases, Chabot said. “We are seeing a lot more cases, a lot more serious cases,” she said.
Chabot attributed the increase to more reports through the statewide child abuse hot line and through more public awareness.
The center provides a one-stop facility where children who are victims of sexual abuse and neglect can receive specialized services and where law enforcement officials can interview them for legal information. “The whole goal is to be child friendly and for children to feel safe,” Chabot said.
The expanded center has two interview rooms, a reception room and offices for law enforcement agencies and victim advocates to use for families and child victims. The interview rooms are soundproof and equipped with microphones and monitors. In this way, team members can observe interviews without being present in the room with the child and still make sure proper questions are covered, Chabot said.
“It is important to interview a child through this process once, rather than through multiple interviews,” Chabot said.
District Attorney Robert Carney helped establish the center by obtaining state grants. The state has since provided at least $100,000 annually to keep the center operational.
The multidisciplinary team consists of representatives from law enforcement, the medical community, child advocates, county social services and other groups who work together to investigate and prosecute abuse crimes against children and to provide support services to the victims.
Chabot said the team is trying to recruit a specially trained physician as a member. Once the physician is on board, the center can seek national accreditation, she said. National accreditation gives the center access to more grant funding and requires that it do more reporting and tracking. It also allows the center to serve as a resource for other counties, Chabot said.
Rensselaer and Saratoga counties rate the only other nationally accredited child advocacy centers in the Capital Region.
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