By Barbara Yarbrough
The women of First Presbyterian Church have a tradition of providing financial support to many worthy causes, often with a focus on women and children. Although grants are made every year, in 2019, after successful fundraisers and generous pledges, a special one-time grant process was initiated.
Barbara Yarbrough, who is a court appointed children’s guardian ad litem (GAL), was on the initial design committee for a new Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) and encouraged the Center to apply for a grant. A grant was awarded by the Presbyterian Women, but COVID and other factors delayed the beginning of construction until 2021. Fittingly the new facility was opened during Child Abuse Prevention Month. The new 8000 square foot facility, designed to look like a home, is quite a contrast to the 800 square foot basement where the CAC was previously housed.
On April 24, several women members made a visit to see the beautiful welcoming facility which includes interview rooms, a medical examination room, therapy rooms, play areas, outdoor spaces, and offices.
Known as The Lighthouse, the CAC is a safe, child friendly location for children to speak with trained professionals about allegations of abuse or neglect. At the CAC, community partners come to the child. Services are child focused with a multi-disciplinary team including law enforcement, department of social services, medical and mental health professionals, schools, attorneys, guardians ad litem, and more.
The new facility offers much needed space and layout improvements which allow for a more child-friendly environment to help reduce stress for children who have endured severe trauma. CAC Program Manager Heather Kauffman has said, “We believe this new space will be a place where they will feel safe and where we can help achieve justice for the wrongs committed against them.
When the child graduates from therapy at the CAC, they fill two bottles with colorful sand – one to take with them and one is left at the CAC with a note of encouragement for others. Some of the messages read “Don’t be shy – they can help you”; “It’s ok to be scared”; “Therapy is hard but in the end, you will be grateful you went” and “Don’t worry, it’s not your fault”.
The CAC served more than 400 children in our community in 2022, which included 439 forensic interviews, 587 therapy sessions, and making more than 1,500 advocacy contacts. The Lighthouse CAC is located on south New Hope Road on property leased for $1 per year by City Church.