Child Advocacy Center Blog


Please check out the link below to learn more about the problem of babies being born drug dependent and the work being done to raise awareness about babies being born exposed to prescription and other drugs.    We hope the diagnosis of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) becomes a thing of the past!

For more information go to:

More and more schools are requiring parents send in a “Comfort Kit” (emergency or disaster kit) from home, which they can use in the event of an emergency to help  children stay calm.  A Comfort Kit only takes a few minutes to prepare, but one may help your child through a scary and confusing time.  Many children like to help assemble the kit.

Comfort Kit - Small Child

Comfort Kit – Small Child

Comfort Kits may be put in a one gallon zip-lock bag (no larger because they must be stored) marked with the child’s name and generally contain the following:

  • A family photo (find a happy, fun time photo)
  • A comforting note to the child from you
  • A bottle of water (16 oz. is best)
  • Ready to eat/nonperishable food (like granola bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, etc.)  Avoid salty/sugary.
  • Small flashlight with batteries
  • An emergency card (important information about your child, phone numbers of nearest relatives & friends with signed permission for who can pick up your child) in a sealed envelope marked emergency information. Provide allergy and medication information, & Dr. #.
  • Toy (or stuffed animal, crayons, game, etc.)
  • Mini first aid kit, wipes, etc. (Ask the school about vital medication)
  • Sweatshirt or Mylar blanket

If your child’s school does not ask for these, please suggest!


Mental Health Accreditation Standard: Child Advocacy Centers have Specialized Trauma-Focused Mental Health Services designed to meet the unique needs of the children served, as well as non-offending family members. Why? Trauma-Focused Mental Health Services are evidenced based treatment shown to reduce the impacts of the trauma and lower the risks of future abuse. Research indicates that without appropriate therapeutic intervention, children who have been traumatized by abuse may suffer ongoing and or long term adverse outcomes throughout their lifetime.

On a day to day basis, we see this to be true. Often we meet with non-offending parents, themselves victims of abuse who received no treatment (therapy). The wounds are still raw, the trauma unaddressed, and now they are facing the victimization of their child.

As a Nationally Accredited Child Advocacy Center, the Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County offers a safe place for children and non-offending family members to receive Trauma Focused therapy services. Each child receives a trauma assessment as part of their intake. We recognize that abuse impacts the whole family. We know that family support is essential to the child’s recovery, healing and ongoing protection. Every family situation is unique. There may be a range of mental health issues such as domestic violence, other traumatic events, substance abuse, etc. Throughout the process, non-offending family members are supported in a variety of ways, such as counseling, family sessions, information, and coping strategies to best support the child’s recovery and future safety.

Because, that is best for the child.

We can hardly believe it has been nearly five years since the Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County Tennessee was nationally accredited!  In preparation of the reaccreditation process, the Child Advocacy Center Executive Director, Margaret Durgin, has just returned from Accreditation Boot Camp in Huntsville AL. 

What is National Accreditation and what does it mean to Child Advocacy Centers?  National Accreditation is provided by the National Children’s Alliance.  To become accredited, a CAC must meet specific standards for the following:

Multidisciplinary Team

Cultural Competency and Diversity

Forensic Interviews

Victim Support and Advocacy

Medical Evaluation

Mental Health

Case Review

Case Tracking

Organizational Capacity

Child-Focused Setting

Why is accreditation important? Meeting these standards ensures that the services delivered by Child Advocacy Centers across the country are consistent, effective and efficient and provided in a way which best serves child abuse victims.  As the Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County goes through the reaccreditation process, we will share information on the standards in future blog posts.

How does the National Children’s Alliance assist Child Advocacy Centers and their multidisciplinary teams?  The NCA provides training, support, technical assistance and leadership on a national level to local children’s and child advocacy centers, and their multidisciplinary team members, to respond appropriately and effectively to allegations of child abuse and/or neglect.  The primary goal of all National Children’s Alliance Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) is to make sure that children disclosing abuse are not further victimized by the system designed to protect them.

Ten siblings adopted by mother and daughter.

Ten siblings adopted by mother and daughter.

We are so happy to share the beautiful photo  celebrating the adoption of ten siblings and their forever family.  The two new mothers are a mother and daughter who completed required training and home study before the children’s adoption.  Six children were adopted by the mother, and four by the daughter.  A close family, the children see each other every day! 

The State of Tennessee has about 300 children available for adoption and waiting for their own “forever family”.  Someone who will be there for them, not only while they are growing up, but also through the college years and beyond.  Someone who will be their family for life. 

All children need home and family.   Unfortunately, many of the children available are older children, children with challenges, or sibling groups like the one above.  They wait for someone to step forward who can give them a safe, loving and nurturing environment. 

Children are waiting!   To find out more about becoming a resource parent, or adoption, please contact DCS at 1-877-DCSKIDS (327-5437). 




Obesity May Begin in Early Childhood

Obesity May Begin in Early Childhood

Update:  A recent CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- 2008-2011) study of low-income preschoolers indicates US childhood obesity rates have improved slightly.  However, more work needs to be done.  The study shows obesity has decreased slightly in 19 states and territories.  Unfortunately, childhood obesity rates have increased slightly in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

One in eight preschoolers is obese!  Childhood obesity increases the likelihood of obesity later in childhood, in adolescence and in adulthood. In addition, childhood obesity predisposes the children to a higher likelihood of associated health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma, and mental health problems.  These conditions may be a lifelong result of childhood obesity.

What can be done about childhood obesity?  There are steps we can take to lower childhood obesity rates.  As advocates for children, we can support healthy eating and active living.  We can make sure families have access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages and that children will have access to safe, free drinking water where ever they are (school, childcare, parks, etc.).  We can show we value active lifestyles.  We can make sure that there are accessible places where children can actively play, such as gyms, playgrounds, and sports fields.  We can require child care providers and teachers to use best practices to support improved nutrition, increased physical activity, and decreased computer and television time.

 As Advocates for Children, we can support much-needed change to reduce childhood obesity.

July 30, 2013 Anti-Bullying Summit Keynote Speaker, Knoxville, TN

Dr. Steven Edwards: July 30, 2013 Anti-Bullying Summit Keynote Speaker, Knoxville, TN

Bullying:  Children Face Bullying 24/7 In Today’s World

Bullying, the biggest problem facing middle and high schools today, was the topic of the Anti-Bullying Summit held in Knoxville on July 30, 2013.  The Summit was well attended by educators, law enforcement and others who work with children across East Tennessee.  Bullying, seen across all sectors, is unlike bullying in past generations.  In today’s wired/wireless world, bullying is a 24/7 problem. 

Dr. Steven Edwards, keynote speaker, advised the audience that “what we don’t address, we accept.”

How do we address bullying when the dynamics have changed?  According to Dr. Edwards, change stems from leadership.  It is necessary to give the students a voice in the process.  It is necessary to find out their perception for effective decision-making to end bullying.

Regarding bullying, Dr. Edwards speaks from experience as a high school principal in Hartford, CT.  He refers to this formula: E+R=O (Event + Reaction = Outcome).  How we respond to bullying will determine the outcome.  Instead of relying on discipline alone, Dr Edwards encouraged getting to the root cause of the problem and treating it.  He stated it is important to look at what we (adults)are not doing, to look at what message we are sending students, and to model the behaviors we want students to practice.  Bullying will decrease in a culture of respect and caring, a culture where relationships are a priority and students are influenced by positive words and by praise.

Medicine Lock Box use to protect children.  Lock up all medicine and vitamins after every use!

Medicine Lock Box use to protect children. Lock up all medicine and vitamins after every use!

Parents and caregivers of child clients at the Child Advocacy Center are able to get a free HOME MEDICATION LOCK BOX

Why lock boxes?  Each year more than 60,000 young children end up in emergency rooms in the US after getting into medication.  Each day, many more teens use unauthorized prescription drugs.  The consequences can be fatal.

As part of the ASAP (Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention) coalition in Anderson County, the Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County is a site for MEDICATION LOCK BOX distribution.  Each box has a built-in combination lock.  Parents and caregivers are encouraged to lock up medications (prescription and nonprescription) and vitamins after every use.   The goal is to prevent the accidental or unauthorized use of these substances by children and youth.

For more information, please visit our website .  Under the Parent tab, click Medicine.

Meet Cooper!  Last week District Attorney General Dave Clark and Cooper toured the CAC where Cooper posed in the forensic interview room.

Meet Cooper! Last week District Attorney General Dave Clark and Cooper toured the CAC where Cooper posed in the forensic interview room.

Meet Cooper!  Still needing his courthouse dog training, Cooper will someday help children by providing comfort during the forensic interview and court testimony process. 

Courthouse dogs; is this something new?  Since 2003, courthouse dogs have been used to give comfort to children and youth.  These dogs may help child victims or witnesses during forensic interviews and court testimony providing comfort during the often-painful court process.  The goal: to reduce the trauma of the experience.

Why not use a “therapy dog?”  A courtroom dog differs from a service dog or therapy dog.  While courthouse dogs always wear a vest or other sign of their official status, and always are on leash, they do not help a person with a disability and do not have public access. Courthouse dogs are carefully screened for temperament and trained to work in the legal system.   Also, the courthouse dog’s handler must be a working professional in the criminal justice field.

A more child-friendly setting: Gone is the intimidating decorum of the courtroom.  With the use of courthouse dogs, we see a huge change in how the emotional needs of children going through the judicial system are met.  The children feel cared for and safer.  This is justice with compassion.

Cooper, welcome to Anderson County!





A recent article in The Tennessean, by Tony Gonzalez, about calls to Tennessee’s crisis hotline stated calls are at an all time high around the state.  (Crisis would refer to children threatening suicide or in other emotional distress.) The article went on to state it was unclear what the increase in calls actually meant.  Are more children in need of crisis services, or are more people knowing about and using the Crisis Hotline?

Is this increase being seen in Anderson County?

Anderson County’s child/youth crisis response is provided by Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services.  According to Matt Sparling, MSED, Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services Program Supervisor, the statistics for Anderson County have been in the same range for 2012 and the first six months of 2013.  The crisis referral behaviors are defined as “not just threats, gestures or attempts to kill oneself, but also threats to kill others, psychosis or other bizarre thought process or severe physical aggression.”

How to Contact Specialized Crisis Services:   Youth Villages has specially trained counselors available 24/7 through a Hotline: 866-791-9224. These specialists determine the type of response needed, such as dispatching a crisis responder to the scene, assessment and evaluation of the child/youth, arranging a safety plan, etc.  More information is available at:

Prevent Crisis: Ideally, the goal of the Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County is children receiving help and support to avoid a crisis situation.  At the CAC, children can receive trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) to support healing and recovery.   Please check out our website: .

two young girls laughing behind another girl's back

Bullying!    We hear about bullying from children who come to the Child Advocacy Center for help.  Now, recent local headlines show people are not only talking about bullying, but that not all agree on the topic. 

What is bullying?  It is any unwanted aggressive behavior among school children, direct or indirect, intended to hurt the target (victim) either physically or mentally.  Examples include attacking someone physically (shoving, punching, slapping, choking, pinching, kicking, beating, stabbing, etc.) or verbally (name calling, making threats, spreading rumors, criticizing, etc. ) and excluding someone from social or other activities. 

Bullying is a misuse of power.  It is not acceptable!

While some people may say bullying is an inevitable part of growing up, or a rite of passage, many see bullying as a form of abuse.    It affects everyone, the victims who are bullied, the children who bully and anyone who witnesses the bullying.  For more information, please go to our website at

Join the Protectors’ Circle!

If you have ever wondered, “what can I do to help abused children”, we invite you to the join the Child Advocacy Center’s Protectors’ Circle.   It is as easy as clicking on our Donate now button on our website:

As a Protectors’ Circle member, you help us better serve children who have experienced or witnessed abuse, neglect or other crime, so that these children and their families may find the help and healing they need.  Won’t you join us in protecting the children?

A snapshot of what YOU are making possible for the children in our community as a Protector:

Within these walls, there is a trained Forensic Interviewer listening as a child discloses years of abuse; at the same time from another room, a Law Enforcement officer and Department of Children’s Services Case Manager observe over closed circuit TV, using the information gathered to make sure the abuse stops; close by, a non-offending parent is receiving support from a Victim Advocate to meet their most basic needs; a Therapist provides trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy with yet another child; while in the medical room a Nurse Practitioner reassures a young girl or boy that their body is okay.

For more information, please check our website or Facebook!

Handprints from children who received services at the Child Advocacy Center in Anderson County.

Handprints from children who received services at the Child Advocacy Center in Anderson County.

Every year many children and youth are exposed, either directly or indirectly, to domestic violence in their homes, neighborhoods and community.   Domestic violence is an adult problem that is not “between two people”; it impacts children.  It impacts all of us.  While much of it is hidden, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) reported that fifty-four people died as a result of domestic violence in TN in 2012.  Twelve of these were children. 

What happens when children are exposed to domestic violence?  Research indicates that exposure to domestic violence seriously impairs the healthy development of children and increases the likelihood of negative outcomes.  They are at a higher risk for child abuse and neglect.  As youth and adults, they are more likely to commit crimes, end up in the court or criminal justice system, or become victims of domestic violence themselves.  They may suffer serious mental and physical health problems, and fail in school and employment. 

The Child Advocacy Center of Anderson County Tennessee, Inc offers an adult domestic violence survivor support group using a twelve week curriculum designed to help parents whose children have witnessed domestic violence.   During sessions, they learn about the effects domestic violence has on children and how to parent them.  For more information, please check our website: