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Open house will show advocacy center's new wing

The 4,0000-square-foot new area at the Medford children's facility culminates a &

36;770,000 project

It's no easy task, wrapping a big ribbon around the Children's Advocacy Center in Medford.

But it's one director Jane Hamilton is only too happy to tackle, two years and some &

36;770,000 after the start of an expansion project that has doubled the size of the center for sexually abused kids.

It's a gift to the children of Jackson County, explains Hamilton, who will mark the grand opening today of the center's new medical and therapy wing.

Inside the renovated house at 816 W. 10th St., Medford, everyone now has room to move: law enforcement officers, grand jury members, social workers, doctors, therapists ' anyone who interacts with the nearly 600 children served by the center each year.

We've just all got a little more breathing space, says Hamilton, guiding visitors past cozy waiting areas, interview rooms and a new, larger medical examination room.

The 4,000 square feet of new space includes a medical examination room brightly decorated with an ocean theme. Dolphins leap on a wallpaper border, a palm tree stands in one corner, a fishing net filled with plush sea creatures hangs overhead.

But the cheer belies the seriousness of the purpose, says Hamilton.

It's as friendly as you can possibly make it when you do sexual abuse exams, says Hamilton.

Begun in March 1991, the advocacy center is a five-county regional hub, offering services that follow a child from the first report of sexual abuse through the often-arduous legal process and into therapy. When it began, the center served 200 to 300 children each year; in 2001, 569 children were served, Hamilton said.

The additional space, funded through a state community development block grant, additional money from Jackson County and donations, makes all aspects of treatment easier, organizers say.

We were all kind of on top of one another, says Toni Richmond, a therapist and one of the center's nine staff members.

In Richmond's new office, young children can play with puppets or a sand tray, while older victims can settle into cozy couches to talk about difficult subjects.

It's a comfortable place to face pain, which experts agree is the only way to heal from the effects of sexual abuse.

This kind of intervention really prevents kids from coming back into the system later, becoming victims again and again, Richmond says.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail