FLORENCE — The Cramer Children's Advocacy Center has been awarded a $1 million grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
The grant, which covers an 18-month period, will be used in various areas of staff training and operations, including victim advocacy, counseling, forensic interviewing, community outreach and direct services to clients.
The center provides free assistance to victims and their families in Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marion and Winston counties, and helps prosecute offenders.
Established in 1992, the center assists families from the initial report of abuse through the healing process and entire criminal justice process.
The funds administered by ADECA are made available by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Director Kim Bevis said the money is set aside for crime victims and their services through collections from court fees, restitutions and other state collections.
"We feel truly fortunate to have this grant, especially in this amount as it helps us cover the growing needs in the areas we serve," Bevis said. "Training is vital, paramount to what we do. Even now among our staff, we have two additional people being trained in forensic interviewing."
Kayla Hunt, a forensic interviewer for the center, began her career there as a victims advocate. After training, she has conducted forensic interviews the past four years.
She said staff members are all cross-trained with "no one fulfilling just a single specific role."
Hunt said there been an increase in services provided at the center as the number of victims has grown.
"It goes in waves really, but there's more education in general about child abuse now, and more communication in schools and with the public," she said. "More people are aware of the issue and feel safer coming forward, and that's a good thing."