April 21, 2016

Minutes of the Rotary Meeting
May 21, 2016
By Christopher Jones
The meeting was called to order by Robby McClure. Darrell Randle gave the invocation. Larry Sindel led in song with Les Greer providing piano accompaniment. Tom Martenstein introduced a guest and also a visiting Rotarian from Birmingham.
Saty Putcha introduced the student guest – Madison Dortch from Williamson High School. Ken Neimeyer introduced new member David McGrath. Robby McClure recognized Virginia Guy as a Paul Harris Fellow.
Starting the program, Bill Kinnaird introduced Pat Guyton, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center. Handling cases of physical and sexual abuse across Mobile County for over 28 years, the Child Advocacy Center now consists of 28 professionals from 8 different agencies that share common office space. While many areas of the country have multi-disciplinary teams that meet regularly to review and process cases, the Child Advocacy Center is exemplary because all services are under on roof. The nearest similar organizations are located in Dallas and Houston, both of which were modeled after the Child Advocacy Center in Mobile.
The process for abuse cases starts with a joint interview by a team of trained professionals. The team works hard to gather evidence in an expedited manner, uncover any false accusations, and determine a plan. The child may be examined by a dedicated medical staff and referred to counseling to begin the recovery process. One specially trained District Attorney then handles founded cases through the court systems. This was the 2nd group in the nation to adopt such a “vertical prosecution” structure; as a result, 90% of cases result in prosecution – far above the national average.
The Child Advocacy Center handles roughly 1,200 active cases. Each year they see about 500 new cases, of which approximately 85% are founded and of which 60-75% are prosecuted. All of this work is done on an annual budget of $850,000 that pays for staff and overhead as well as for the dedicated District Attorney and counseling services. Counseling is offered on an individual basis, in group settings by age, and for parents.
In addition to handling cases and providing counseling services, the Child Advocacy Center provides free transportation to appointments, services or the court for victims who might live anywhere across the county. And the Center also provides age-appropriate educational programs regarding child abuse in schools. Of the 138 school districts across Alabama, only 7 were offering any education regarding child abuse; only Mobile County Public School System had a comprehensive program across the whole district.
After his presentation, Pay Guyton answered several questions from across the room. In honor of his speaking, a donation was made to a local charity.
Robby McClure adjourned the meeting.