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New director takes reins at children’s advocacy center

Difficult times are troubling for anybody, no matter how old onemay be. The youth of Southwest Mississippi now have a new face tohelp guide them through intimidating legal processes and roughpatches in their early lives.

After searching since January, the Southwest MississippiChildren’s Advocacy Center, located in McComb, has found its newclinical director to assist children who are alleged to have beenabused or have witnessed violent crimes. Pike County nativeAdrienne Garner recently experienced her third Monday as clinicaldirector for the advocacy center.

“I didn’t think I’d be back home other than to visit,” saidGarner. “It’s been real interesting. Many things are the same, butthere have been a lot of changes.”

The center was in search for a new director after previousClinical Director Lori Tate accepted a job with a former employer,Fresenius Medical Care. However, Tate remains at the center parttime as the center’s contract grant administrator.

“My full-time job allows me to have more flexibility with myfamily, and writing grants allows me to help out with the center,”said Tate.

If Garner needs any assistance during her transition, Tate isready to help. However, Tate thinks Garner will be have no troublesettling in to her role as director.

“She has good support from the board of directors and goodsupport from the prior director,” said Tate.

Garner said she discovered the open position of clinicaldirector while attending a social worker conference.

“The administration part is new, and I just wanted a challenge,”she said.

Garner received her high school diploma from Parklane Academy,her associate’s degree from Southwest Mississippi CommunityCollege, her bachelor’s degree in social work from Delta StateUniversity and her master’s in social work from the University ofSouthern Mississippi.

Her previous work experiences include three years as aschool-based therapist with Mental Health Center, two years as aHospice social worker and 10 months as a Geri-psyche therapist.

Though she has worked with all kinds of people in need, she saidshe found initially working with children slightly intimidating,but welcomed the opportunity.

“I can remember people that said something during my childhoodthat has stuck with me,” she said. “I think that it’s a hugeresponsibility to work with children.”

With one out of four children experiencing some sort of abuse,Garner said she hopes to ensure enough resources and staff membersfor the non-profit advocacy center to provide a voice forchildren.

“My vision for the center would be to increase awareness ofchild abuse so communities can work on preventing it,” shesaid.

Garner added that most of the center’s funding comes from Pike,Walthall, Lawrence, Amite and Lincoln counties, but she hopes toincrease fundraising efforts.

“I would really like to reach out and engage those othercounties,” said Garner.

The center provides forensic interviews, therapy services,parenting classes and medical referrals to eight counties inMississippi including Lincoln, Copiah, Franklin and Lawrencecounties.

In 2010, the center served 361 alleged victims, 70 of thoseserved were of Lincoln County. From January to April 1 of thisyear, the center has served 83 people, 11 of which were fromLincoln County.

“We’re kind of where those reports meet action,” said Garner.”We give the child a voice.”