The search for funding to provide adequate space for the Claiborne Children’s Center (CCC) has come to fruition via approval of a Department of Children’s Services (DCS) grant that will also allow DCS to reopen its doors inside the county.
Lori Phillips-Jones, attorney general for the 8th Judicial District, briefly spoke last week during the regular June meeting of the Claiborne Commission.
Since 2010, the old Juvenile Detention Center has been used to house the offices of the CCC. According to Phillips-Jones, the limited space did not provide adequate room for the Center to expand its many programs and projects inside the county.
The grant money will play double-duty by allowing DCS to regain its presence in Claiborne County by sharing the new Children’s Center facility, she said. The two entities will co-partner an office space on the lower level of the Tom Ball Building, located on Blue Top Road in Tazewell.
“The Children’s Center in this county has been very active in providing counseling and other services. This is a great opportunity for us to expand those services. Unfortunately, we will probably see our caseloads increase as our presence inside the county grows,” said Phillips-Jones.
She said she was very thankful to the county commission for its proactive approach to this matter.
“During my early career as a prosecutor, there was no children’s advocacy center or specialized medical personnel to handle the exams and other duties,” she added.
After the meeting, Phillips-Jones said there had been many hardships to overcome in quickly providing children a safe place prior to opening the CCC.
“Say a child was pulled out in the middle of the night from a meth house. That child would need whatever clothing he had on to be taken away immediately and provided with clean clothing to wear. That child would need a thorough bath and shampoo to get rid of the contaminants he was exposed to that was embedded from the chemicals that are used in the production of meth,” she said.
Before opening the CCC, children were being transported to other counties, sometimes traveling an hour or more while in contaminated clothing, she added.
The new center, expected to open in July, will provide enough space to eventually expand operations to stock clothing and hygiene products on site.
“We will be able to provide a homelike environment to each child while processing each case,” said Phillips-Jones.
The Community Partnership Program Grant will provide approximately $700 of the $1,200 per month leasing fee for the office space, will pay the utilities, phone and Internet service fees and cover the costs of the various supplies, she said.
The grant, contracted through DCS, is renewable on a yearly basis.
Jan Runions may be reached at 423-626-3222. Follow the Claiborne Progress on Twitter @ClaibProgressTN.