The History of Children’s Advocacy

In 1985, Former Congressman Robert E. "Bud" Cramer (AL), who was then a District Attorney in Madison County, Alabama, saw the need to create a better system to help abused children. The social service and the criminal justice systems, at the time, were not working together in an effective manner that children could trust, adding to the children's emotional distress, and creating a segmented, repetitious, and often frightening experience for the child victims.

In 1985, he helped found the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville to train staff in law enforcement, criminal justice, child protective services, and medical and mental health services to collaborate to improve the welfare of child abuse victims. His idea was that of bringing together all of the separate agencies that needed the same thing: the child's story. His ideas became reality on May 1, 1985 when the first Child Advocacy Center was opened in Huntsville, Alabama. Within the next two years symposiums were held, the Alabama Legislature created bills backing Child Advocacy Centers, and funding appeared. Advocacy Centers grew not only in the state, but on the national level as other states realized the need. The Bessemer Cut-Off Children's Center, now known as The Clay House Children's Center, opened in 1989.

The History of The Clay House

Sam Russell served as the Bessemer Division District Attorney from November 1982 until he retired in May 2001. Sam saw the need for a child advocacy center in the Bessemer Cut-Off Division of Jefferson County, Alabama. In 1989, with "seed money" from legislature, The Bessemer Cut-Off Advocacy Center was opened. The Center is a full member of the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers. Since that time, the center has served over 6,000 children.

The center moved to a historical home on Dartmouth Avenue in Bessemer in 2001. The house was renovated in 2002 to provide the much needed space for expanding services and the high number of clients utilizing the center. The $140,000 renovation added three new offices, an additional conference room and two additional interview rooms. We now have 2,300 square feet to serve the children and families of the Bessemer Cut-Off Area.

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