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MS Center Aiding More Possible Victims of Child Abuse

The Southwest Mississippi Children's Advocacy Center is on track to interview more youngsters this year who might be victims of child abuse or other crimes.
McCOMB, Miss. (AP, abc24.com) - The Southwest Mississippi Children's Advocacy Center is on track to interview more youngsters this year who might be victims of child abuse or other crimes.

Social worker Jade Douglas said the center interviewed 225 children in 2011. So far in 2012, the center had already interviewed 120 by late May.

"We have seen a lot of drug endangerment (cases) this year," said Douglas, who has received training in how to conduct the interviews so they're admissible in court.

The Enterprise-Journal reported that the center serves 12 counties and is expanding its workload to help Lamar and Perry counties because a children's advocacy center in Hattiesburg has lost funding.

Douglas interviews children who are thought to be victims of physical or sexual abuse, or who have witnessed violent crimes or drug deals. The videotaped interviews are given to the courts and can be used as evidence instead of having children testify on the witness stand.

"That child has to be interviewed one time and it's on DVD and it's taken care of," said Chad Reed, who's vice president of the center's board of directors.

Douglas said some of the children have been exposed to the seedy underworld of drugs, and some have been abused by their mother's drug dealer.

"And they're witnessing the drug transactions, so to speak," Douglas said.

The center has three full-time employees and one part-time employee. It receives money through the federal Victims of Violent Crimes grant, as well as appropriations from a handful of counties in its service area. Counties that don't provide annual funding are billed $300 per interview, Douglas said.

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