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The Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center has been helping children in Tallapoosa, Chambers and Randolph counties since 1999. The advocacy center tapes forensic interviews of witnesses who are minors in child abuse cases or investigations so if a case goes to court the child doesn’t have to testify, according to director Jacqueline Burgess.

The center’s children are referred by the local Department of Human Resources or law enforcement. The center works as part of the local district attorneys’ offices in the state.

“Without an advocacy center there would not be an agency that would coordinate a child abuse investigation,” Burgess said. “Cases would not be able to have emphasis on protecting the child. I hate that it’s needed but it is definitely a needed service in Tallapoosa County and our other two counties as well.”

The center also offers trauma counseling and medical exams. The center helps about 300 children per year, according to Burgess.

“We follow the case all the way from when the child is interviewed to the case if it gets prosecuted,” Burgess said.

The center also provides child abuse prevention classes to local third-, fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade classes. It teaches about 3,000 students per year.

The prevention program is funded by Lake Martin Area United Way, which also supplements the center’s medical exams.

“(The prevention class) is something that is not state funded,” Burgess said. “Lake Martin (United Way) gives generously so we can do the prevention program and help with the medical program.”

Burgess said the center would lose part of what makes it effective if it didn’t have funding from United Way.

“I think (it’s) essential,” Burgess said. “We are extremely grateful for Lake Martin Area United Way.”

For more information on the center, visit www.tri-co-cac.org/index.