Community program

Exchange Center launches new community program to combat rising rates of child abuse

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) – The Clearinghouse for the Prevention of Child Abuse, in partnership with a former mayor of Dothan, is launching a new initiative called ‘Trauma Sensitive and Resilient Dothan’.

While recent national child abuse statistics indicate that there have been fewer reported cases, Alabama has seen more reported cases requiring intervention.

“We’ve seen a much greater need for support services,” says Pamela Miles, executive director, Exchange Center for Child Abuse Prevention. “We’ve had to really increase our home visits with our parent assistance program.”

The center said it has seen a 48% increase in referrals for its services since the start of the pandemic.

“We’ve had to increase our counseling services because we have a lot of clients who have survived trauma and are very excited about the isolation and the loss of those support systems,” says Miles.

To help make a difference, the center has decided to establish a new partnership with a major figure in the field. As a survivor of childhood trauma, former Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz donated $50,000 to start the Trauma-Informed and Resilient Dothan initiative.

“Our kids are everything to us, and some of them are coming out of really bad situations,” says Mike Schmitz, former mayor of Dothan. “What if we as a community help them put our arms around them and help them succeed, and that’s what a trauma-informed community does, and I know we can do that.”

The program will use frontline workers and community members and leaders to help reduce rates of child abuse in Houston County.

“A child, when he comes out of a difficult situation, he is rewired,” says Schmitz. “We have to help them reconnect.”

Miles says programs like this are the perfect opportunity.

“When we know better, we do better, and so it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow together,” Miles says.

The Clearinghouse will distribute copies of the book “What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing” written by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey to child counselors, therapists, local high schools, libraries and other organizations through the wire to form a book club.

There will be four community book club meetings and all members of the wiregrass community are welcome to attend.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to our Newsletter News 4 and get the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning. Get instant notifications on top News 4 stories by downloading our mobile app.