Center that treats abused children plans expansion 1,300 square feet to be added this year

January 29, 1998|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Howard County advocates for children are planning to nearly double the size of the county-run center where victims of child abuse are interviewed.

The Child Advocacy Center on Rogers Avenue in Ellicott City -- renamed The Listening Place last year -- will be expanded by 1,300 square feet to provide a space where police, social workers, victims' advocates and doctors can treat child victims of physical or sexual abuse.

Angela Simmons, coordinator of The Listening Place, projects the renovation costs to be about $200,000 and expects the work to begin in April and be completed by the end of the year, though the effort to find a construction company has not begun.

The renovation would add office space, two interview rooms and an examination room where a doctor could conduct a examine children believed to be abuse victims.

A resource library where social workers and others can read and view training videos of child abuse cases will also be included in the new space, which is to be added to the back of the building.

Though the county has pledged to sponsor part of the cost of building an addition, Simmons said the lion's share will come from community donations.

An open house held in December to raise money for the renovations was only moderately successful, Simmons said.

"We're really looking for the community to get involved in working to fight [child abuse]," she said. "The center needs money for renovation to come from the people."

Center officials are developing a Friends of the Child Advocacy Center board to organize an awareness program. "We want people on the board who are committed to fighting child abuse but who can raise money as well," Simmons said.

The center investigates an average of 280 cases of physical and sexual child abuse each year. Kathy Maddox, supervisor of the county's child protective services, said the center's staff has grown by 30 percent within the past year to include 11 full-time workers.

It is important that children feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible when the center's social workers and police interview them, Maddox said.

"We want the children to feel safe, so we try to limit the number of times he or she has to tell and retell their stories of abuse," she said. "The center looks like a home and the [child abuse] detectives are in plain clothes so that the kids aren't intimidated."

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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