5 Questions with Amy Lynn Braley: Protecting children and raising awareness

April 8, 2013 

What's the difference between Chattahoochee CASA, Twin Cedars Youth & Family Services Inc. and Children's Tree House Child Advocacy Center?

Twin Cedars Youth & Family Services Inc. is a nonprofit agency that offers an array of programs for at-risk children and families in Columbus, LaGrange, Macon and Opelika. As a part

of Twin Cedars' family of programs, Children's Tree House helps ensure the protection of children in the six-county judicial circuit by offering forensic interviews and medical exams for suspected victims of child abuse and those who have witnessed violent crimes. Their expert staff works in concert with law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office and DFCS (Department of Family & Children Services) to preserve evidence for prosecution purposes and testifies as expert witnesses.

In addition, CTH offers free counseling to its victims and non-offending caregivers as well as courtroom advocacy. Chattahoochee CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) provides qualified and caring volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children in foster care who have come through the court system through no fault of their own. Volunteers make recommendations to the court for needed services and work to research permanency options so that children do not languish in a massive and complex child welfare system.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Which local activities are planned?

In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month, Children's Tree House and Chattahoochee CASA are hosting Superhero Day on Saturday, April 13, on Broadway in Uptown Columbus from 8:30 a.m. until noon. This event is coordinated in collaboration with Uptown Columbus and will feature a superhero-themed 5K/1K fun run to raise funds and bring about awareness of child abuse in our local community.

The Superhero Run encourages runners to dress as superheroes, with the idea that every child needs a hero, but abused and neglected children need superheroes. To register for the run visit www.active.com. Other activities for Superhero Day include a sidewalk chalk contest, costume contest, puppet shows and much more. Child-friendly vendors will also be on site for car seat demos and child ID kits.

What's your advice for someone who suspects a child is being abused?

If you suspect a child has been abused or neglected, you should report it to DFCS. Reports are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the hours of 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. call 706-649-1370 or after hours call 1-855-GACHILD. You may also report child abuse to your local police department. In addition, Children's Tree House offers free mandated reporter training for the community. Call 706-327-9612 or visit our resource toolkit at www.twincedars.org.

When it comes to child abuse rates, how does Georgia compare to the rest of the nation?

According to Kids Count, which provides state profiles on child well-being, Georgia ranks 37th -- or 13th from the bottom. Locally, in state fiscal year 2011, there were 1,372 suspected reports of child abuse. Of that number, there were 236 investigations with 155 found to be substantiated. Forty-nine children were removed from their homes and taken in foster care. Last year, our CASA program served 158 children in foster care, while Children's Tree House Advocacy Center provided more than 265 forensic interviews for suspected victims. Twin Cedars' programs seek to offer change in indicators that led to our low national status.

Aside from your organization, what's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Since relocating here two years ago, I have enjoyed all of the family friendly activities offered by Uptown Columbus. The district has undergone a remarkable transformation through public and private partnerships and has so much to offer each year, with more than 150 event days on their calendar.

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