By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
At the April 11 Gadsden City Council meeting, officials honored the James M. Barrie Center for Children for helping children who are abused for Child Abuse Awareness Month. Shane Ellison presented the James M. Barrie Center with a proclamation.
“And whereas, the James M. Barrie Center for Children plays a critical role in the lives of children who are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse or witnesses to violent crime,” said Ellison. “And whereas, the James M. Barrie Center for Children assists children in feeling comfortable by providing a safe home life environment for them to provide information about their abuse.”
Ellison, on behalf of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton, proclaimed the week of April 11 through 15 as James M. Barrie Center for Children week.
The Barrie Center works collaboratively with law enforcement to investigate instances of child abuse. The staff provides forensic interviews, evaluations and therapy for children who have disclosed sexual or physical abuse. The center also provides support and advocacy to families during the investigation. The center often spreads information about preventing child abuse and mandatory reporting.
Ellison called upon citizens, community agencies, faith groups, medical facilities and businesses to “increase their participation in the efforts to protect children and support the intervention efforts provided by the James M. Barrie Center.”
At the meeting, Barrie Center Executive Director Patricia Falcon thanked the council for recognizing the center. Then she provided the council with information on local child abuse.
“Last year we interviewed 272 children in forensic interviews,” said Falcon.
Falcon reported that there had been an increase in Gadsden in the number of interviews held. The percent of cases involving children rose from the last few year’s range of 30 to 35 percent to 44 percent this year. Falcon said that much of what they see stems from drug abuse and unvetted childcare. Falcon stated that there has been an increase of child on child sexual abuse, a large portion of which she contributed to children viewing pornography.
Echols said that the increase in numbers could be because of an increase in awareness, allowing children to feel sfe enough to report the abuse.
She stated that the Barrie Center was now providing victim counseling.
Barrie Center honored the victims it interviewed with its pinwheel ceremony, placing a pinwheel for each victim on the lawn of the courthouse.