Foothills Child Advocacy Center marks ten years of service

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Tuesday marks ten years since the Foothills Child Advocacy Center in Charlottesville served its first victim of child abuse.

Since 2006, Foothills has served more than 1,700 children and 200 new victims every year.

"Our purpose here is to make this as least traumatic event in the child's life as we possibly can," said Cathee Johnson Phillips, the center's executive director.

The center's main purpose is to interview a child at the start of a physical or sexual abuse investigation.

"That's usually the first step in the investigation is to interview the victim," said program director, Jennifer Kline.

Kline conducts the majority of interviews at Foothills, each of which is recorded so other agencies can watch the tape and spare the child from having to go through as many as 15 similar interviews.

"We don't want children traumatized or re-traumatized," Kline said. "Hopefully this will be the only interview to keep them from having to re-experience everything that they're telling us about."

"We don't want the child to be re-victimized having to remember and to relive that trauma," said Detective Jerry Schenk with Albemarle County Police Department. "Not just remembering the actual events but they remember the emotions behind it."

Foothills works with at least a dozen other agencies including child protective services and local police.

"I think it's a great partnership that we have because not only do they provide that safe place to speak with children but they also provide resources," said Schenk. "They're the glue that kind of connects everything together."

Foothills also plans to expand services by partnering with University of Virginia Medical Center.

UVA is currently in the process of a hiring a child abuse pediatrician to run the program and work part-time out of the Foothills facility.

"We're really excited about it because then we can be sure that our children are getting appropriate medical care," said Johnson Phillips.

Foothills is running a spring fundraising campaign for National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The center also hopes to raise awareness for prevention by hosting a family fun day on April 30.

"Prevention is better than having to intervene when it's happened," said Johnson Phillips.

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