Child Advocacy Center a key resource in the battle against abuse

DanKinningP6308480

DanKinningP6308480 Every child matters and, according to Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning, one non-profit organization is helping bridge the communication gap to child victims of neglect, physical abuse and sexual exploitation.

Organized in 2001, Heart to Heart Harvey/Marion County Child Advocacy Center has had more than 900 children come to the facility to report abuse.

?Prior to opening this center, we (as law enforcement officers) really struggled,? he said. ?It was hard for guys like me to sit down with a small child. I was used to interviewing adults.?

The center has helped officers increase their ability to communicate with children, he said.

How it works

CAC complements the state?s Social and Rehabilitation Services, but is independent of it. It is not affiliated with law enforcement, the federal government or any state agency, Kinning said.

?Children are taken to the CAC facility in Newton and there we do a forensic interview,? he said. ?We are trained in techniques on how to interview child victims.?

The interviews are recorded, he said, to show that officers are not using leading questions or badgering a child.

?Our county attorney wants us utilizing (the center),? he said.

The center also provides a safe and supportive environment for children.

?Cases are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team, which aids in tracking cases through the system and helps ensure that children are provided with medical and mental health services,? he said.

Kinning said the multi-disciplinary team is a better system than having numerous interviews by various agencies.

?With all these agencies joined in a team effort, the child is only interviewed by one person,? he said.

An advocate is provided to assist the victim and his or her family through the process, including court appearances.

Prior to the establishment of the CAC, law enforcement struggled to communicate with and identify children of abuse.

?This hampered our ability to prosecute offenders and protect their victims,? he said.

With CAC, conviction rates have increased and prosecutors have the ability to successfully take legal action that would have been nearly impossible 20 years ago, Kinning said.

?The CAC is a blessing for the children of Marion County,? he said. ?It is a vital part of our ability to protect the children of this community.?

Origin of CAC

The Child Advocacy Center was formed through the efforts of Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton and Lori Hardin of the Newton SRS office. Both had done numerous interviews with abused children.

Walton and Hardin realized these types of interviews were difficult for children and the environment wasn?t helping.

Funding

Kinning said the CAC operates with grant funds, but relies heavily on donations and fundraising events.

Marlene Beeson, director, spends a lot of her time fundraising, Kinning said. Kay Perkins is the center?s advocate.

?I don?t think very many people in the community are aware that the CAC exists and I need to raise this awareness level,? he said. ?We have utilized the center a lot in the past and I think the people of Marion County need to know what a big difference the center has made.?

Kinning said he has a passion for the CAC and he serves on its board of directors.

?These people are passionate about their jobs,? he said. ?They have done an awesome job in building it into what we now have, and in keeping it going.?

McPherson County, he said, is using the Harvey/Marion CAC as a model. McPherson County opened its own CAC, even though it is still raising money.

?We are open to donations from anybody,? Kinning said. ?We are indeed lucky to have these services provided to our community.?

For more information about the CAC, call Beeson in Newton at 316-284-6029 or Kinning at 620-947-3440.

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