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January 10, 2019 - 1:48pm

Justice for Children seeks renovation of Child Advocacy Center to make it a more comfortable place

posted by Howard B. Owens in Child Advocacy Center, Justice for Children, news, notify.

The Child Advocacy Center should be a place where children who have been physically and sexually abused feel safe and cared for when they visit.

That means the center needs to have a home-like feeling, not a clinical atmosphere, said Theresa Asmus-Roth, program coordinator for Justice for Children.

While that has always been the goal of the center, Asmus-Roth said she and the staff and the board of directors think it's time to renovate their office location at 301 E. Main St., Batavia, to help make the center more friendly and welcoming.

"We want this environment to feel like the kind of place that you would go to get away from all the worries of the world," Asmus-Roth said during an open house Wednesday unveiling plans to remodel the building.

The First Presbyterian Church of Batavia donates the two-story building to Justice for Children and the agency, supported by grants and donations, has a long-term lease.

When it became clear a few years ago that the center's old location on Bank Street was no longer adequate, the Kiwanis Club of Batavia took on the major financial goal over five years of raising funds to support the center's move to a new building. When the Presbyterian church made its building available, the center moved into the new location and decided to forego building a new structure. The Kiwanis Club raised $190,000, which will go a long way to covering the cost of the more than $250,000 in renovations to the current location.

Asmus-Roth said the Justice for Children Foundation is seeking additional donations from the community in order to complete the project.

The renovations will first create all new office space on the second floor. That will enable the first floor to be dedicated entirely to caring for children and their families in times of crisis.

"We want families coming in to feel like they're coming to visit a friend or relative instead of coming for a doctor's appointment," Asmus-Roth said.

To that end, the renovations will include installing a wraparound porch outside and a waiting room inside. There will be more private meetings rooms as well.

Since construction and visiting with children who have been abused aren't a good match, during the first-floor renovations, clients will be seen in the Albion and Warsaw offices or in space being made available in the church next door.

More than 20 years ago, if a child was abused, if they were believed, the investigation and prosecution involved multiple examinations and interviews and multiple locations. That, in itself, Asmus-Roth said, was traumatic, and by the nature of things, could lead to inconsistencies in stories that made prosecution harder.

Now, because of the center, all of the professionals involved in a case -- attorneys, investigators, caseworkers, victim's advocates, and doctors, are all in one place and can be seen in one visit.

The work of the center is important, Asmus-Roth said, because she remembers what she heard in a previous job from adults who had been abused as children. They were often ignored or told they were making it up.

Today, she said, child abuse is less frequent, but because of greater awareness more often reported.

"Being here enables all of us to make sure that no kid who walks through our doors is going to say 50 years from now, 'no one believed me. No one supported me. I felt like I was all alone,' " Asmus-Roth said.

"I go back to that sense of wanting this to be the shelter in the storm. It's important to me that the children in our community know that no matter what happens outside when they come here, they'll be believed and they'll be supported."

For more about the center or to make a donation, visit www.justiceforchildrenadvocacycenter.org.

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Kathleen Kogut, architect and project manager, from LaBella Associates, and Theresa Asmus-Roth, program coordinator for Justice for Children.

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The staff of the Child Advocacy Center: Theresa Asmus-Roth, Brenda McQuillan -- mental health therapist, Amanda Czworka -- mental health therapist, Breana Crane -- victim assistant, Dave Libick -- family advocate, and Jessica Mitchell -- forensic interviewer.

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