The Rhea County Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a lease agreement between the county and the 12th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center. The move allows the child advocacy to set up offices near the new Rhea County Justice Center.

Rhea County Commission Chair Jim Reed said that the child advocacy center will be housed in the old health department site near the justice center. According to the terms of the lease, the child advovacy center has agreed to rent the property beginning March 1, 2021, and ending Feb. 29, 2024, with the ability to renew the lease if needed. The advocacy center will pay $1 per year for the use of the property.

The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Tennessee [CACTN] is a statewide membership organization dedicated to helping communities, through local child advocacy centers, respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient

“CACTN strongly believes that the combined professional wisdom and skill of the multidisciplinary team approach results in a more complete understanding of case issues and the most effective child and family focused system response possible, advocacy center officials said.

The Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal, investigators with the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department and the local district attorney’s office have been exploring the possibility of establishing a child advocacy center in Rhea County for several years.

“We’ve been trying to get one for several years,” Rhea County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Rocky Potter said. “Right now we’re having to use Bradley County, McMinn County and even the Chattanooga child advocacy center. Sometimes it’s a hardship for some families to go that far, so we definitely need our own facility here.”

Potter said that officials at the child advocacy center are trained to talked with children and families about the alleged crime that has been committed against them and are instrumental in bringing criminals to justice.