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Community Safety

Child Advocacy Center Provides Help for Suspected Child Abuse Victims

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.  Ilga Vise talks with Barbara Brown Johnson, the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. 

In 1995, a small group of concerned professional and community leaders met to consider a better, more sensitive way to respond to children suspected of being physically or sexually abused.  People from many segments of the community came together to establish the Child Advocacy Center.

Barbara explained that funding for the center comes from many sources.  Only a small percentage of the annual $1.2 million budget comes from state funds.  The rest is made up of federal grants, fundraising dollars and donations.   

According to the data gathered for the 115 Missouri Counties, Greene County's ranking in the number of cases of child abuse has worsened over time.  When a child abuse case is brought to the Child Advocacy Center, a team of investigators works collaboratively on the case.  In a child friendly, non-threatening environment, a trained staff member conducts the forensic interview and exams in an objective manner, so the child is not asked to retell a painful experience over and over, according to Johnson.  The child is told what to expect, and the interviews are recorded.

Johnson stated that child abuse affects society as a whole to the tune of $ 124 billion per year.  It impacts not only the individual, but the nation’s health care, education, criminal justice and welfare systems.  A perpetrator will gain a child’s trust by a pattern of behaviors known as “grooming, according to Johnson.”  He/she may befriend a child and adults close to the child.  It may begin with just hug or a pat, but will escalate into inappropriate touching unless the child objects or tells an adult. 

For more information visit the Child Advocacy Center’s website.