THE ROAD TO HEALING
Mission Kids officially moves into its new home
EAST NORRITON » In a facility that its administrators say exudes just the right amount of child friendliness for youth of all ages, Mission Kids, the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Montgomery County, unveiled its new home at the Norriton Medical Campus, 180 W. Germantown Pike on Thursday.
Former Mission Kids Executive Director Abbie Newman, now CEO of the organization, welcomed the large crowd, which included many state and local officials, among them Attorney General Josh Shapiro; Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele; Montgomery County Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh, Ken Lawrence and Joe Gale; and state Reps. Marcy Toepel, Todd Stephens, Tim Briggs, Michael Corr and Mary Jo Daly.
Newman kicked off a ribbon cutting ceremony by reiterating the concept behind Mission Kids.
“Between one in five and one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18. In places that do not have a child advocacy center, children need to tell their stories over and over again in places like police stations, social service agencies and district attorneys’ offices. Each time they retell their story they are retraumatized,” she said.
A child advocacy center alters the entire dynamic of that process, Newman pointed out.
“So everybody that comes here watches a specially trained forensic interviewer do an interview so that the child can tell their story in their own words and they are not retraumatized. The whole team watches this interview live in a nearby room on a closed-circuit television. It’s one on one with the child, so they feel comfortable in speaking.
“While that’s going on,” Newman added, “we have specially trained family advocates who start their work with nonoffending family members and help these children on the road to healing faster. If the family doesn’t heal the child doesn’t heal.”
Newman noted that since opening in 2009 Mission Kids has served more than 3,600 children in Montgomery County.
“In 2017 we ‘re going to do close to 600 interviews with abused children,” she said.
Mission Kids Board of Directors Chair Maripeg Bruder recalled some recent praise that accrediting experts bestowed on the agency.
“They said we have some of the best policies and partnerships that they have seen across the country,” Bruder said, noting Newman’s recent talk at the 15th Annual European Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in the Netherlands, alongside Montgomery County Judge Risa Vetri Ferman.
“They talked about how our model can be used to help children all over the world. Child abuse does not have any borders. We know that children who do not receive intervention at a CAC like Mission Kids have a higher likelihood of becoming abusers or developing mental health problems,” Bruder said.
“In order to effectively continue our battle against child abuse, both inside and outside Montgomery County, we need to strengthen our senior management team to assure efficiency and excellent operations for the children and the families that we serve in Montgomery County while we lead the fight against child abuse outside Montgomery County.”
With that, Bruder announced the promotion of Newman to CEO, a position that will expand Mission Kids’ scope beyond Montgomery County while allowing Newman to lead the effort in “building state and national partnerships and push for legislation at all levels that will support child abuse victims.”
Incoming Executive Director Leslie Slingsby, the former Mission Kids associate director who will now handle day-to-day operations, detailed the highlights of the new space.
“We have doubled our square footage,” Slingsby said, acknowledging the “hardworking” officers, detectives, law enforcement and social service agencies that work on behalf of the children of Montgomery County.
“The 12- to 18-year-olds told us they would like to feel more grown up,” Slingsby said by way of explaining the waiting room décor. “We have two private family advocacy center rooms for the families who really need the help and support when they get here after there’s been a suspicion or report of child abuse. We now have three forensic interview rooms and additional office space. We’re so excited about the opportunities this space provides.”
By end of the year, Mission Kids will be sharing its new building with Laurel House, an agency described as providing emergency response, safe haven shelter and communitybased supportive services for victims of domestic violence.
According to a Mission Kids release, this is the first time that combined child and domestic abuse offices will be co-existing in Montgomery County.
Celebrating the opening of the new Mission Kids headquarters are, from left, Montgomery County Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence, Mission Kids CEO Abbie Newman, Mission Kids board Chair Maripeg Bruder (cutting ribbon), Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale.