WOODBURY, NJ--The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office will open a Child Advocacy Center in Woodbury NJ where children believed to have been abused can be interviewed in a setting designed to be safe and comfortable.
The center, decorated with art made by local school children, will be housed in a building at 47 Cooper St.
“This center will help us prosecute child abusers more effectively while coordinating the services we can provide to child abuse victims in Gloucester County,” said county Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton. “We want to thank our state legislators for making this funding available.”
Financing for the center is a $300,000 competitive grant the GCPO applied for last year and received from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. This CAC is the southern-most such facility in New Jersey.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be 4 p.m. Thursday, October 26 with officials of the GCPO, state legislators, county officials and child advocates invited to tour the new facility.
According to the National Children’s Alliance, forensic interviews of children when there is a suspicion of abuse are conducted by trained personnel in order to provide information to members of a multidisciplinary team of law, enforcement, child protective services, medical and mental health providers, victim advocates and prosecutors “that will support accurate and fair decision-making.”
These interviews “may also be the beginning of the road toward healing for many children and families,” say Alliance guidelines for CACs.
Interviews should be conducted in a “child-focused setting” that is “designed to provide a safe, comfortable and neutral place,” the Alliance recommends.
Interviews previously were conducted in a room on the second floor of the Prosecutor’s Office. However, that setting exposed children to the normal activities of law enforcement- officers with guns and badges and suspects entering and leaving the building.
The new center also makes space available to other agencies including the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency and the Center for Family Services.
Wall art was arranged through an elementary school drawing contest. The GCPO is also working with Rowan University art students for an indoor mural that could be seen from the street.