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Center provides safe place for abused children

Feb 10, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

American Indian children who become victims of abuse or neglect will soon have a safe place on the Wind River Indian Reservation to meet with those who can help.

"It's something that happens every day, every hour, every minute," Clarence Thomas said about child abuse.

Thomas is the administrator of the new Eastern Shoshone Child Advocacy Center, which is housed in a small home at 49 Boulder Flats Road between Fort Washakie and Lander.

He and CAC coordinator Tracy Romberg hosted an open house at the new center Jan. 23.

Romberg said the center is fully secured and will provide a space for children to be interviewed by forensic investigators and other service providers. Children previously went to the Welcome House in Ethete, but when the space was no longer available, interviews had to be conducted at the FBI office in Lander.

"It will be a place where we do forensic interviewing for issues of child protection, sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse on the child," Thomas said. "It's a place where we have funding to take care of victims of those items, supporting children who have been victimized."

Organizers began work in March to secure a three-year grant of $445,875 through the Office of Juvenile Justice to operate the facility.

"We needed to have (the CAC) community oriented," Thomas said. "With the grant, we are able to have more of a value in the community so we can do more prevention work."

Romberg said the CAC will also provide groups a place to have meetings about child abuse and neglect.

"It gives programs a place to come," Thomas said. "The CAC is like a home base."

The mission of the CAC is to "bring together already existing disciplines and tribal organizations in a collaborative and cohesive manner to respond to child abuse."

The single-story house is a rental and includes a kitchen/reception area, a storage room and a common area where meetings could be held. There is a private interview room off the common area with video cameras and a microphone. Sound and video from the interviewing room can be seen and heard in an adjacent room that is also used as Romberg's office.

A room with children's toys offers family members who accompany the victim a comfortable space to wait.

Thomas said the next step will be to have the center nationally certified. He said the CAC will open in a couple of weeks and will provide services Monday through Friday.

"Politicians say children are the most important thing. We're not just saying it, we're doing it," Thomas said.

For more information, call the CAC at 332-3200 or 332-0220.

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