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Family Service Agency opens doors to new home

DeKALB – When a child who may have been abused is brought into Family Service Agency of DeKalb County’s Child Advocacy Center, Tynisha Clegg said it’s her staff’s job to make sure that child feels comfortable and safe enough to tell an adult what happened to them.

That’s why the agency’s new home, 1325 Sycamore Road, is fully equipped with a discreet medical examination room, child-friendly interview space and a private entrance for law enforcement officials, because sometimes the suits can make folks fearful, Clegg, executive director of the agency, said while giving a tour of the space Monday.

“If you think about the different people that are involved in a child-abuse investigation, each one of them has a different focus,” she said. “The whole purpose of us doing the interview is so the child is not retraumatized over and over by being interviewed by all the different entities. Just one interview, so the child doesn’t have to relive their horror.”

The agency purchased the three-story, 15,000-square-foot building for $475,000 in June 2018. A former Associated Bank, the building was renovated by Irving Construction and Finney’s Electric beginning in April. The move was to better house the agency’s growing number of staff and programs, Clegg said.

The forensic room is a highlight of the new building, Clegg said, because it allows for a child’s discretion and safety to be prioritized.

As the interviewer chats with a child without their parents in the room, representatives from the Department of Child and Family Services, a law enforcement officer, a case worker and someone from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office are able to watch live from a private room upstairs and communicate with the interviewer via earpiece.

The three-story building’s ground floor is for clients only, with counseling rooms for children and adults, white noise machines to give clients privacy during sessions, a spacious lobby and easily accessible bathrooms and elevator.

FSA’s Community Action program – which provides resources and tools to low-income people in an effort to help lift them out of poverty – is managed by Colleen Parks, associate executive director, who said the move allows her team to cater to the needs of clients.

“We made some pretty significant changes as to what these rooms hold,” Parks said. “We really worked with the clinicians on what’s therapeutic for them.”

The second floor houses the agency’s 30-person staff in cubicles and offices. The lower-level basement features a community room that will also be used for group sessions, such as the agency’s new Teen Talk Group, beginning Oct. 7.

The old 8,000-square-foot building at 14 Health Services Drive, which had housed FSA since the 1970s, was purchased by Northwestern Medicine, Clegg said.

The agency oversees a number of social-service programs in the county, such as the Children’s Advocacy Center for victims of physical or sexual abuse, senior service advocacy programs and youth mentoring.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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