The streets of downtown Clanton fill with people shopping, getting a bite to eat for lunch and attending to business at City Hall. In the background, children laugh and scream while playing outside at a local day care. For most, the day is peaceful.
Within earshot of all the activity is the Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, a nondescript building with a small sign on the door. Inside, paintings, play areas, bright spaces and friendly, dedicated men and women welcome children who are victims of, or witnesses to, sexual and/or physical abuse. The paintings by area children, some as young as 4, offer a bright, happy welcome.
“We offer a safe, child-friendly environment to children victimized by abuse or neglect,” said Jana Zuelzke, executive director of Butterfly Bridge. “We are a place of healing.”
The highly trained women and men who work within Butterfly Bridge know the laughter heard from the nearby playground can be replaced in an instant with fear, trauma, tears and physical harm. The staff assists law enforcement officials to prevent abuse, to educate about potential signs of abuse and to help heal victims’ emotional scars.
Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center serves children in Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties. In 2018, the nonprofit provided 5,354 services to children – 31% to children ages 6 and under; 37% to children ages 7-12; and 32% to children aged 13-16. Reasons for referral primarily involved sexual abuse (70%), although critical services were provided to victims of physical abuse or those who witnessed domestic or sibling abuses.
“Our goal here is rebuild lives, which may be shattered,” Zuelzke said. “Our giving partners, such as the Alabama Power Foundation, help us to provide information to raise abuse awareness, allow us the ability to hire the professionals who are so critical to our mission, and help with the education materials for parents and caregivers and the community. We take very seriously our role in helping children feel safe and loved.”
When the peace of a day is broken, the Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center is ever-present to help rebuild lives and futures.