The Scottsboro Gold 8U little league baseball team did not wear their classic Vegas gold jerseys during their game on Tuesday, May 7. Instead, they wore shirts representing something bigger than themselves and bigger than baseball. The little league team wore shirts to support the Jackson County Children’s Advocacy Center.

Head coach Patrick Stewart said that he wanted to use this opportunity to teach his players a life lesson. He wanted to help the kids understand how fortunate they are to have a loving home and how fortunate they are to be able to play baseball.

He told his team before their game that there are more than likely kids in their classes that are not nearly as fortunate and are not able to play baseball. Stewart told the players that they are leaders in their school and other kids look up to them whether they know it or not. He told them to be nice to each other and to treat everyone the same way.

Stewart got the idea from the lessons he learned as a kid playing baseball.

“I look back on it now and I learned a lot of life lessons,” said Stewart.

He thinks that this helped develop his players to understand that they represented something bigger than baseball that night. Stewart said there are things in the world more important than playing and winning baseball games.

Until the fall of 2018, children abused in Jackson County were provided the services of a children’s advocacy center (CAC) by the DeKalb County CAC. Many people within the community noticed it was time for Jackson County to establish its own CAC.

The purpose of a CAC is to minimize the impact of abuse on the life of a child-victim. Without the services provided by a CAC, a child may be asked to recount the worst story of his or her life, the story of being abused, repeatedly to doctors, officers, lawyers, therapists, investigators, social workers, judges, and adults. Further, they may be asked to describe the traumatic experience in a police station where they think they might be in trouble or they may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult that could actually hurt the case against the abuser.

When police or child protective services believe a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC – a safe, child-focused environment – by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells his or her story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not re-traumatize the child.

Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy, courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services.

Dr. Jessica Howell, who was trained by the National CAC in Huntsville, performed 48 forensic interviews in 2018, and she was out for three months on maternity leave. Forensic interviews are non-leading and can stand up in court.

The Jackson County CAC had over 200 therapeutic sessions last year. Howell said there were some on a waitlist for therapeutic sessions.

Howell, who serves as Director, Forensic Interviewer, and Therapist at the Jackson County CAC, said the purpose of the CAC is help and heal abused children of Jackson County.

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