THE ROAD TO HEAL­ING

Mis­sion Kids of­fi­cially moves into its new home

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mus­tang­man48 on Twit­ter

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.

GARY PULEO — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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