Almost 10 years ago the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center was revitalized and restarted the provision of services to child abuse victims in Bibb, Dallas, Hale, Perry and Wilcox counties. Shortly thereafter, volunteer board members were identified in Bibb county. It quickly became obvious that the need in Bibb county was great.
For the next 7 years, victims and their families, DHR and Law Enforcement had to travel to the main office in Selma for children to participate in forensic interviews. It became evident that there needed to be an office in Bibb county, but with very limited funding available, it took a while for this dream to become a reality.
Fast forward a couple of years and Bibb County had more child abuse investigations than any other county in the 4th Judicial district. Board members, staff and partners like Bibb Medical Center continued the search for a location to place a CAC Satellite office. Finally, the timing seemed to be right. Grant funding became available through VOCA/ADECA and the Bibb County Commission agreed to donate office space in Centreville. In April 2017, with the support of local board member Stephanie Kemmer, the Bibb Medical Center, the Cahaba Jr. Women and others, the office space was transformed. The Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center’s Bibb Satellite office opened its doors for forensic interviews of children with an allegation of abuse.
Each year, from 2014 to 2019, of the 5 counties served by the CARCAC, the highest number of forensic interviews were provided to children from Bibb county. After the Satellite office opened, specially trained interviewers travelled from as far as Greensboro and Eclectic to speak to our child victims. Again, the need became obvious. But, being a forensic interviewer takes a very special person. The training is intense but the job itself is even harder. Imagine talking to children about the horrific things that have been done to them. Imagine keeping a straight face and dry eyes.
In September of 2019 the answer came loud and clear. Robin Birchfield, CRNP at Bibb Medical Center stepped up and agreed to take on this heavy task. Less than a week later, Joseph Marchant, Bibb Medical Center CEO, not only offered to sponsor the forensic interviewer training at the National Child Advocacy Center, but agreed to allow Birchfield to include visits to the CAC as a part of her schedule. By the end of October, the training was completed and by mid-January, our newest Forensic Interviewer completed her first interview.
As a part of the team at Bibb Medical Center, Birchfield treats patients of all ages, from the very young to the elderly in the nursing home setting. She successfully served in a rural health clinic and started a wellness-focused clinic. She is also an active giver outside of her profession, having served as a foster parent to multiple children. CAC Board Chair, Stephanie Kemmer, stated “…Robin possesses a discerning mind and an open heart, qualities that will prove most helpful during the interview process.” As a part of the team at the CAC, Birchfield will help child victims tell their stories. She will provide a safe zone to listen and ask questions that encourage them to share what happened to them. These conversations (also known as interviews) are part of the investigations conducted by DHR and law enforcement.
Bibb county has proven to be an area of great need when it comes to the problem of child abuse, but it has also proven to be an area of a great level of giving. Numerous people, businesses and organizations have stepped up to help these vulnerable victims. They not only give financial support but they give moral support and most importantly their time. Without help from partners like Bibb Medical Center and specially trained professionals like Robin Birchfield, the Central Alabama Regional Child Advocacy Center could never have filled this need. The importance of this addition to the CAC team is immeasurable and our children will benefit for years to come.