Alabama 4-H has announced a new partnership and community service initiative with the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. This initiative is being led by Joy Maxwell, a 4-H leadership and citizenship state specialist; Sheila Weber, Teens Getting Involved for the Future program coordinator; and Gina South, state director of the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.
Weber actually came from a Children’s Advocacy Center to lead the TGIF program at Extension.
"The TGIF program is a grant-funded project and we are required to do an annual service project," she said. "I knew from experience that the CACs needed all the help they could get, so 4-H and TGIF partnering with the CACs for this worthwhile statewide service project was the logical thing to do."
What is a CAC?
A CAC is a non-profit organization that serves the needs of child victims or witnesses of crime. Most are victims of abuse and neglect. There are currently 33 CACs serving 64 Alabama counties. The National CAC is based in Huntsville and was the first CAC in existence. CACs are now worldwide.
The centers provide child forensic interviews, counseling (in-house and referrals), victim advocacy, forensic medical assessments, multi-disciplinary team case reviews and community education.
|These young people are involved with TGIF in Monroe County. They will be working with the new program.|
4-H and CACs are similar and unique in that they are both statewide organizations that serve children. Both organizations utilize evidence and research-based practices to enrich and improve the lives of children. Most importantly, according to statistics, it has been established that 4-H serves the same children that CACs do.
"When you have a CAC, you have an entire community coming together to tell children they care about them, and they want to help them heal from the trauma they unjustly experienced," said South.
"Our state 4-H and TGIF leadership are excited to be a part of this community service project and hope to maximize this partnership to help the children of Alabama grow into healthy, well-adjusted and productive citizens," Weber added.
How the Project Works
4-H Foundation agents and TGIF agent assistants will be given a list of needs by the executive directors of local children’s advocacy centers. 4-H and TGIF began the statewide community service project by implementing a supply drive to benefit local CACs in every county. The supply drive will run for the entire school year and help lessen the financial burden of purchasing supplies.
"It is never too early for young people to learn the importance of giving back to their community and helping others in need. This project is a great way for them to learn that it is not always about giving money to a worthy cause. Giving of their time to help others in need can be just as beneficial," Maxwell said.
In April 2016, April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, 4-H members will work with their local CACs for a service project. The service project will vary according to needs, but can include:
Hanging blue ribbons around town for awareness;
Placing pin wheels on courthouse lawns – each representing a victim served by their local CAC;
Planting flowers, cleaning or painting at local CACs;
Assisting with CAC sponsored fundraising events; and/or
Helping with other needs of their local CAC.
Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.