From 2012: Children's Advocacy Center moving to bigger home, will offer more services

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2012 

The Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, which provides a "healing place for sexually abused children and their families," is moving to a building that offers twice the space the center currently has.

The center, which has been at 183 Walton Avenue since 1994, is moving to the former site of the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, 162 North Ashland Avenue. The speech center recently moved into the old Julia R. Ewan Elementary School on Henry Clay Boulevard.

"I am excited to have room to breathe," executive director Andrew Oliver said. Oliver said he was interested in the speech center location from "the first day it went on the market."

Not only will the new location double the organization's square footage, but it will help the center stay in a central location and in a neighborhood to provide a homelike atmosphere.

When people come to the center, "It is the most traumatic time of the life of the child, but also for the parents, and the family needs our support," board member Paige Rea said. The center provides space for police interviews, medical exams and counseling in one location, so "they don't have to tell their story over and over again."

Ray Larson, who has been a supporter of the center since it opened, said children used to be exposed to multiple interviews in institutional settings.

"They were just very uncomfortable in all the situations," he said. "When we first started, there was a great stigma associated with being sexually abused," but attitudes have changed, he said.

Still, the center has challenges in raising money. Because of the sensitivity of the focus of the program, clients and family aren't likely to appear in a brochure or to participate in a fund-raising fashion show.

The organization is "the best-kept secret" in Lexington, Rae said. "We are an asset that not enough people know about."

Rea is chairwoman of a capital campaign to raise $750,000 for the move and renovations. So far, $175,000 has been pledged through the end of the year, with Columbia Gas providing the first corporate gift.

Rea said she is excited about the new space, especially the playground that will be built behind the renovated building.

"The whole building is set up and designed for kids," she said.

The advocacy center serves about 600 people a year, but Oliver said that only about 10 percent of sexually abused children disclose what has happened.

She said she's excited that the move will allow the advocacy center to offer more services, such as support groups and education, to the family and community. There also will be a designated healing space for expressive therapy, such as art and music.

"We are doing great things on behalf of kids," Rea said. "Helping and healing, these are the building blocks for that child's success."

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