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Oh Give Us a Home

A new advocacy group aiming to limit the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual abuse is a lease away from being established in Albany County.

The Child Advocacy Center of Albany County recently received several grants from state and local agencies that will enable it to hire and train staff, buy medical equipment and—perhaps most important, at this stage—find a place to call home. Now that the center is funded, it has begun to actively search for centrally located office space and is projecting a start-up date in mid-fall.

The center’s mission is to centralize the procedures that necessarily follow a report of child sexual abuse, to help ease the suffering of both the victims and their families. “We want to consolidate the process to make it much less difficult for families facing sexual abuse to deal with the trauma around it,” said Betsy Gorman, director of public relations for the nonprofit St. Anne Institute, the lead agency in the development of the Child Advocacy Center.

The St. Anne Institute applied for and received grants from the New York State Crime Victims Bureau, the New York State Office of Child and Family Services and the Community Foundation of the Capital Region.

The Child Advocacy Center of Albany County is one of many similar projects established recently throughout the country with the goal of streamlining interaction among victims, nonoffending family members, and professionals. The necessary interviews by agencies such as Child Protective Services, law-enforcement personnel and physicians would be conducted in a comfortable setting within the center, rather than through a series of courtroom and office visits.

“Instead of one person after another doing interviews, it will all be done under one roof,” said Suzanne Tolomeo, the center’s acting executive director. “Not only will the process be speedier, but it can increase the prosecution in many cases.”

Now, all the center has to do is settle on a location.

“Everyone is anxious for this to happen,” Gorman said. “We just need to make some progress in finding a location.”

—Rick Marshall

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