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Little House a new haven for children

CASA, children's center break ground for home

POSTED: June 4, 2008 5:02 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro leans on a shovel while talking to Heather Hayes, director of the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children, during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building for the organization and the Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates.

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Representatives from the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children and the Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates broke ground Friday morning on a new combined facility called the Little House.

The building, located on Washington Street, will house the services offered by both organizations to help abused and neglected children in Hall and Dawson counties.

When abused or neglected children are identified, the Edmondson-Telford Center can provide initial help such as forensic medical exams and interviews, while CASA aids children during the legal process, said Heather Hayes, the executive director for Edmondson-Telford.

"Together we can serve those children much more effectively and overall improve the process of investigating child abuse and neglect cases," Hayes said.

The agencies will co-own the new facility, and hope that by working together they can be more efficient and improve communication, deal with cases more quickly and have a higher prosecution rate, Hayes said.

"We are so excited today," CASA Executive Director Connie Stephens said.

Stephens said the Little House will be a "child-friendly environment" accessible 24 hours a day for children in need of its services.

The facility will allow space for volunteer training as well as medical exams, visitation and access for the Department of Family and Children Services and law enforcement officials.

Hayes said this would be beneficial to the children the organizations serve because, "they've been through enough without being traumatized by the system."

Baseball Hall of Famer and Edmondson-Telford supporter Phil Niekro attended the ceremonial groundbreaking Friday.

"There's smiles on everybody's faces today," said Niekro, a former Atlanta Brave who has been involved with the organization for more than a decade.

The Phil Niekro Golf Classic is an annual golf tournament that raises money for the Edmondson-Telford Center. This year's tournament is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Chateau Elan.

"You can never have enough money when it comes to a project like this," Niekro said.

County Commissioner Deborah Mack also was at the groundbreaking. "I support the organization. They can really educate the community that there is a safe haven and provide services to more," she said. "It's needed."

Hayes said Hall County has the fifth highest number of confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in the state.

Stephens said CASA served 384 children in 2007. Hayes said the Edmondson-Telford Center conducted close to 400 forensic exams for Hall County and 100 for Dawson County. "Our county is very effective at identifying and responding," she said.



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