Mar. 27—VALDOSTA — The Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County is working on a hybrid schedule, holding virtual meetings and in-person therapy sessions, through the pandemic.
The center has 13 staff members and serviced a total of 656 children and families in 2020, Ashley Lindsay, executive director, said.
She confirmed there have been CAC staff and clients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
"We have moved meetings to virtual and we are seeing clients in person because therapy and child abuse has not slowed down; in fact, it has increased," she said.
"We are thankful to all who have continued to support us during this very different time. Child abuse cases are on the rise and the level of abuse in our cases is significantly more difficult than we have experienced before."
The CAC conducts play-therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy.
The difference between TFCBT and EMDR is that EMDR doesn't require clients to detail what happened to them, staff members said in previous interviews.
Services are available for youth ages 3-18 in Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Lanier, Echols and Lowndes counties.
Forensic interviews are done on location and are utilized for investigative purposes while the clinical-therapy sessions are long-term and aid the child in healing from the trauma or abuse, according to staff members.
Aside from law enforcement and the Division of Family and Children Services, CAC has partnered with the Southern District Attorney's office, The Haven women's shelter and schools along with mental-health partners.
To provide a comfortable environment for children and their families, CAC offers tours of the facility to the child and the parents.
Once the child is comfortable, the interview proceeds into the occurrence of abuse. After, the child can choose a stuffed animal and get a snack while staff speaks with parents.
Since the pandemic started, the CAC gets cleaned after each client. A deep cleaning takes places at the end of the day, Lindsay said.
The center regularly fundraises to increase its funding through events such as the annual Anchored in Hope dinner, which has featured Elizabeth Smart, John Walsh and Bobby Bones.
Other fundraisers are Cook and Care, a competition that mimics Food Network's "Chopped" and a clay shoot.
The CAC also sponsors an awareness event by placing blue-and-silver pinwheels in front of the City Hall Annex to represent child-abuse cases from the previous year in Lowndes County.
Donations can be made to the CAC by calling (229) 245-5362. The center is located at 3325 Skipper Bridge Road.
Donations are placed in an outside barn and sanitized before being given to clients.