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Child Advocacy Centers Handling Thousands More Cases

The waiting room of Susie's Place is stocked with toys, games and books to keep children relaxed and comfortable.

Child advocacy centers that provide safe environments for law enforcement to interview children involved in abuse situations are seeing a major increase in their case loads.

Indiana’s 23 child advocacy centers handled 8,459 cases in 2012, up from 7,128 in 2011 and 6,255 in 2010.

National Children’s Alliance’s Indiana Chapter Coordinator Jan Lutz says the increase can be attributed to several factors.

“We’ve had some high profile cases that have allowed people to better understand their reporting responsibilities,” she says. “Child advocacy centers used to only interview children of alleged sexual abuse and now we also interview children of domestic violence, witness to violence and serious physical abuse.”

Susie’s Place in Bloomington has seen a jump in line with the state numbers. Its case load increased from 192 cases in 2011, the first year it was open, to more than 370 cases last year.

Executive Director Emily Perry says that has put a lot of pressure on the center’s employees.

“We are seeing that Indiana as a state is really embracing the child advocacy center model and because they’re beginning to embrace it, the popularity of our services is going up,” she says. “However, opportunity for funding to meet the demand has not grown at the same rate.

Some centers are also serving a large area. Susie’s Place sees children from eight counties, some nearly 60 miles away.

The National Children’s Alliance Indiana Chapter is trying to remedy that problem.

It is in the process of opening a 24th advocacy center and its long-term goal is to have a center within a 25 minute driving distance from any point in the state.

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