One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.
- Forest E. Witcraft

State, local agencies get behind child advocacy center Featured

SEVIERVILLE - Efforts to establish a child advocacy center received a boost Thursday when representatives from Sevier, Jefferson, Cocke and Grainger counties joined the state in officially signing on to the project.There have been other failed attempts to establish similar centers in the area, Schmutzer said.

     "The difference in this one is Donna Koester," he said, referring to the project's task force chairwoman. "She is a mover and a shaker."
     The facility, newly named Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, would assist children who are victims of suspected sexual or physical abuse and severe neglect. It would serve children in the four-county 4th Judicial Circuit.
     The center would provide a home-like atmosphere where officials can interview and counsel victims away from more unfriendly environments. It also would house officials who work with families of the victims and provide community education.
     "Cases will often hinge on whether that child will take the witness stand," Schmutzer said. "Without that, we have nothing. We're going to see a larger number of cases we'll be able to prosecute."
     The interagency agreement will allow the center possibly to receive grant funding, Koester said.
     "We have a window of opportunity to be able to apply for between $5,000 and $30,000 in grants," she said.
     The ceremony brought together law enforcement representatives from across the four counties, including Sevier County Sheriff Bruce Montgomery, Gatlinburg Police Chief Randy Brackins and Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Jack Baldwin.
     "A child's well-being is better taken care of there than in a traditional law enforcement office," Brackins said of the planned center. "I do like the idea that they can take better care of the children."
    "It is something that is desperately needed," Baldwin said.
     Barry Fain, of Jefferson County, is treasurer of the task force. Fain, who works with the juvenile court system, has a personal reason for his involvement.
     "I have a 4-year-old and I see the faces of these children in my own," he said.
     For information on the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, call Koester at 453-2638 or Crystal Ratcliff at 429-7012.

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