GREENSBURG, Ind. – Officials are pleased to see a more than year-long project finally pay off. Decatur County leaders learned early Thursday morning they were getting $441,509 to renovate a vacant building into a children advocacy center many had wanted for years.
The funds come from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which awarded grants to 19 rural communities. The combined amount totaled $10.8 million.
Children advocacy centers are used for conducting interviews with children who are victims or witnesses of a crime. Prosecutors and police can observe what the child says and use it in court. It also prevents the child from having to retell the story multiple times.
Decatur County's money is part of the Public Facilities program that is for projects that improves the quality of place, generate jobs and spur economic revitalization through improving community facilities or historic preservation projects.
The center will go in a vacant veterinarian clinic along West Main Street. Money will cover the acquisition of a building and renovations to create a child-friendly environment for child abuse investigations and victim support services.
"We have applied before and denied, initially," said Stephanie Back, the executive director of Children's Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana (CACSI). "So, the second time it was even a little more sweet."
Back's office will send advocates and interviewers to the office once it opens in the second half of 2019.
The new center will dramatically cut down on travel time for police and prosecutors who are used to driving 35 to 40 miles to Dillsboro, Indiana, where CACSI currently conducts interviews with authorities observing them taking place.
It's a trip some families couldn't easily make and would slow down the legal process.
"We had a fair number of people who would opt not to go because of the distance or for whom it was a burden to leave work or schedule days off to make that trip," said Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter. "So, it would result in a delay and a delay in seeking justice from their offenders."
To get a child to feel comfortable with the interviewer, rooms need to be renovated and decorated to feel more family-friendly.
"The more we can make them feel at ease the better," Back said.
CACSI has seen more than 4,000 children in 10 years it’s provided services in southeastern Indiana. Those cases include 700 from Decatur County and 70 during 2018 alone.
The addition will also cut down on travel time of neighboring counties who may be able to go to the new office in Greensburg.