NORMAN — Exposed wooden beams and white hard hats framed the scene of an ongoing renovation project Wednesday afternoon at the Mary Abbott Children’s House.
Board and staff members gathered for a groundbreaking celebration for an expansion project that will renovate all 1,500 square feet of the Abbott House’s second floor to provide space for the Children’s Victim’s Unit.
“This new co-location is very important for us and our multidisciplinary team and multidisciplinary efforts as we help to coordinate children’s advocacy,” said Clint Williams, Mary Abbott Children’s House executive director.
The Abbott House is one of 750 independent children’s advocacy centers in the country, providing a place for children who have been victims of severe physical or sexual trauma to seek medical attention during investigations of alleged child abuse.
The house provides a place for forensic interviews, medical assessments and educational outreach concerning child sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect, primarily serving Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties.
Originally built in 2008, the upstairs floor of the building has remained empty, until expansion needs could officially be determined.
Williams said the fundraising and planning process has been going on for the past 18 months. After a year of determining the architectural design of the space, construction began.
“We started to talk about it and it became clear that the Norman Police Department wanted to have more of an interaction with us,” Williams said.
Williams said one of the main goals of this project is to strengthen their partnership with Norman officers and investigators.
Det. John Stege is one of two Norman police detectives who have partnered with the Abbott House to investigate crimes involving children. Both detectives will move into the new space once it is completed, along with one Cleveland County detective.
“One of the important things of child advocacy centers is that they keep the focus on the needs of the victims,” Stege said.