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Child Advocacy Center Opens Satellite in South-Central Missouri

When a teacher, doctor, or other adult suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, they’re supposed to make haste in picking up the phone and dialing the child abuse hotline. The state then contacts the county where the child lives. What happens from there depends, in part, on what type of abuse the child may have endured. 

South-central Missouri is a high-poverty area which also has a high number of hotline calls each year.  Until now, it’s been a financial and geographical challenge for kids in living there who may have been sexually abused to get to a place where they can be examined and interviewed in a kid-friendly setting. But now, the Child Advocacy Center is opening a satellite office in south central Missouri, and will begin serving kids in August.  KSMU’s Jennifer Moore has this interview.

Moore:  I’m sitting with Barbara Brown-Johnson, the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center. Barbara, thank you so much for being here today.

Brown-Johnson:  Thank you, Jennifer.

Moore:  Tell me why the CAC decided on West Plains as the site for its new satellite office.

Brown-Johnson:  Well, we looked at that whole area. And we simply found a lot of services in that hub, being in West Plains. And we knew that, in order to put a satellite CAC together, we were not only going to need to be centrally located, but we were also going to need mental health services, medical services, and a whole host of other things.  So we thought that that probably made more sense to be there, because lots of people come in from outer-lying counties into that service area.

Moore:  And I believe you looked at the number of hotline cases that were coming out of this area and the number of kids who were actually served.  And from what I understand, there were many reports, but they just weren’t able to make that journey to Springfield.

Brown-Johnson:  Absolutely. I’ll just give you one example. In Howell County in 2008, which is the last year we have data for, there were 284 child abuse investigations. Only 70 of them made it to our door. Now, that’s a real commitment by that team in Howell County, as well as the other counties around, that they keep bringing kids to us, even though it’s a long, long drive. But teams that we’re looking to serve tell us all the time, ‘We only send the worst cases to you all.’

Moore:   In a nutshell, tell me what types of child abuse cases the CAC typically deals with. It’s pretty heavy stuff.

Brown-Johnson:   It is. About 75 to 80 percent of the cases we see are for sexual abuse. Last year, we saw 1,136 cases total.  We see physical abuse. We see severe neglect. We see witness to crime and child exploitation. Those are, in a nutshell, the five categories we see. 

Moore:  And what are your needs now?  Surely there must be a huge need when you start a whole new center in a whole new town.

Brown-Johnson:  Absolutely.  On our end, we’ve been writing several grants.  Most of them have been funded. But we have been thrilled that the community has really stepped up. But we have lots of other needs as well. We need office supplies. We need juice boxes. We need new children’s books.  

We will be looking at constructing an advisory committee made up of people in that community. And we are going to need their help in telling us what will work well here. Who are the folks we need to talk to who have a heart for children and making sure they are safe?  And [we’ll be] asking them to participate in helping us meet our financial needs in that area.

We really want to put our roots in that area, too. We want to buy our supplies locally. We want to hire locally. We want to open a bank account there.

This will be their Child Advocacy Center. We will have oversight to ensure quality control, and I think that’s a good thing. But we need the community’s help in making sure that, one, it’s funded well, [and] two, in telling us what we need to be doing in their community.

This is an opportunity for everyone. And I think that what we would like the most is to hear what the community wants.

Moore:  Barbara Brown-Johnson, thank you very much.

Brown-Johnson:  Thank you.


You can contact the Child Advocacy Center by calling 417-831-2327, or by going to its website:

The Missouri Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-392-3738.