Child Advocacy Center offers help to abused children - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Child Advocacy Center offers help to abused children

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

It's all smiles, as Moranda Garrett shows me pictures of her two yr old son "Phortune". But things weren't always this joyful; this little boy with a big grin was abused by a daycare worker.

"The daycare lady's husband beat him," says Garrett. Garrett thought she had a good daycare system in place. It included transportation for Phortune and her three other children. But then came the day when he was dropped off on the curb in front of her house.

Garrett says, "He was in the car seat and she just sat the car seat there, blew the horn and pulled off." Garrett brought her son inside. Her motherly instincts told her something was wrong. "He had a black-eye; he couldn't open up his eye," says Garrett.

Phortune was rushed to the hospital. On the way, he blacked out.

Garrett says, "He got a skull fracture. He had puncture wounds to the liver. He had a broken leg. His fibula was fractured and he had to see an entomologist. He was in the hospital 3 months.

Phortunes' story is just one of many. This past September, Eric Higdon, the son of a daycare worker was arrested for sexual abuse. There were four alleged victims, all under the age of five. The case was sent to a grand jury.

Chief Deputy Randy Christian says in recent years more people are reporting child abuse. Christian says, "The good news is we have a system in place where we can help these children restore their lives."

That's where "The Prescott House" comes in. Maribeth Thomas has been working as a counselor and clinical director for 15 years. She conducts forensic interviews with abused children.

Thomas says, "Specifically if they've been told not to tell, a lot of times children won't tell verbally but they may write it or draw it. Because in their mind, they're not telling what happened.

It's a challenging task; the counselors have to be cautious to not traumatize the child again. The interviews may be watched by several agencies that may include DHR, police officers, social workers and the Jefferson County District Attorney's office.

"We unfortunately are on the backend of that process. We are involved in the investigation to the prosecution of the case," says D.A. Brandon Falls. The D.A. reviews the evidence and determines if the suspect should be charged, and if so, what charges they should face. "No one wants to believe that an adult would do something terrible to a child, no one wants to believe that, and that's what makes our job tougher," says Falls.

But no job is tougher than being the parent of a victimized child. Phortune is now 2 years old. He has nightmares and scars from the incident. He sees a counselor every week. For Garrett, seeing the ongoing suffering takes a toll.

Thomas says the counselors expect to see at least 600 children in Jefferson County by the end of this year.  Chief Deputy Randy Christian says do background checks, make sure that the center is licensed and that the child is comfortable with the workers and other children.

Child advocacy centers like the Prescott house are private, non-profit agencies that rely on grants, fundraiser's and private donations. If you would like to donate, you're encouraged to call "The Prescott House" at 205-930-3622.

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