Mis­sion Kids hon­ored by gover­nor

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN >> Call­ing it a “much-de­served” honor for “ex­tra­or­di­nary” work, law en­force­ment and elected of­fi­cials joined child ad­vo­cates as the Mis­sion Kids Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter in Mont­gomery County re­ceived the Gover­nor’s Vic­tim Ser­vice Pathfinder Award.

“Your ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion to chil­dren has left an in­deli­ble im­pact on all the lives your work has touched. The com­mon­wealth is priv­i­leged to have you as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our val­ues and tra­di­tions that move Penn­syl­va­nia for­ward. I ap­plaud your un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing the lives of your fel­low cit­i­zens,”

Gover­nor Tom Wolf wrote in a ci­ta­tion read by Sec­re­tary of the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion Les­lie Richards dur­ing a cer­e­mony on the steps of the county court­house on Oct. 4.

Richards, who for­merly served as a county com­mis­sioner, pre­sented the ci­ta­tion to Ab­bie New­man, CEO of Mis­sion Kids and the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board mem­bers.

“I know it’s been said they’re a leader in the com­mon­wealth but trust me, you’re a leader in the coun­try,” Richards per­son­ally ad­dressed mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. “The work you do is just quite ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

New­man said the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, formed in 2009 to help ease the crim­i­nal jus­tice process for child abuse vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, was “hum­bled” to re­ceive the recog­ni­tion.

“We’re so ex­cited. While we are ac­cept­ing this award we would not be here with­out the full sup­port and ded­i­cated work of all of our team mem­bers,” said New­man, re­fer­ring to the county dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, county Of­fice of Chil­dren and Youth of­fi­cials, the county’s 50 po­lice de­part­ments and med­i­cal and men­tal health of­fi­cials.

Since 1999, the gover­nor’s award has rec­og­nized “those who have shown a com­mit­ment to en­hanc­ing the lives of vic­tims of crime within Penn­syl­va­nia,” Richards ex­plained, call­ing it the “most pres­ti­gious award” the state gives to a vic­tim ser­vice pro­fes­sional or pro­gram.

In 2017, Mis­sion Kids pro­vided about 600 foren­sic in­ter­views to child vic­tims of al­leged sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse.

“As a physi­cian, I know how im­por­tant this work is. It has life­long con­se­quences for that in­di­vid­ual child. I’m so grate­ful and proud that that work has been rec­og­nized with this very pres­ti­gious award,” county Com­mis­sioner Val Arkoosh said. “Un­for­tu­nately, there will al­ways be more kids to see and take care of and I cer­tainly stand with all of you to make sure that that gets done well.”

The Mis­sion Kids Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, which of­fi­cially opened its doors in 2009 in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion in the county, was cre­ated by the col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of the dis­trict at­tor­ney, the Po­lice Chiefs of Mont­gomery County, and the Mont­gomery County Of­fice of Chil­dren and Youth to stop the life cy­cle of abuse and im­prove the out­comes for abused chil­dren and their fam­i­lies.

Mis­sion Kids, a 501(c) (3) cor­po­ra­tion, serves as a child-friendly fa­cil­ity where med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, so­cial work­ers, po­lice of­fi­cers and at­tor­neys come to­gether to stream­line the in­ves­tiga­tive process and pro­vide vic­tims with the nec­es­sary sup­port ser­vices to help them heal.

“This agency and its multi-dis­ci­plinary ap­proach is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of how to help kids through the trau­matic process of dis­clos­ing abuse and shar­ing what they have seen as wit­nesses to other crimes,” said Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele. “For nine years, Mis­sions Kids has been mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren who have been vic­tim­ized, most of­ten by a trusted, known adult, or have wit­nessed a crime.”

Steele said the foren­sic in­ter­views com­pleted at Mis­sion Kids can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween get­ting a per­pe­tra­tor be­hind bars and al­low­ing him or her to go free.

“Th­ese chil­dren are scared, con­fused and over­whelmed and Mis­sion Kids through its role as the spoke in a multi-dis­ci­plinary re­sponse to child abuse and sex­ual abuse makes the process eas­ier for chil­dren,” Steele added.

Steele praised Mis­sion Kids for striv­ing ev­ery day to achieve jus­tice for young vic­tims of crimes.

“This honor is muchde­served and at Mis­sion Kids you should all be very proud,” said Lau­rie O’Con­nor, di­rec­tor of the county Of­fice of Chil­dren and Youth, call­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion a model for other child ad­vo­cacy cen­ters statewide.

O’Con­nor rec­og­nized Judge Risa Vetri Fer­man, who co-founded Mis­sion Kids while she was dis­trict at­tor­ney, for be­ing “a cham­pion” for causes she be­lieved in.

“We’re re­ally for­tu­nate that pro­tect­ing chil­dren has been your call­ing,” O’Con­nor said as Fer­man looked on with other mem­bers of the county bench. “Your de­ter­mi­na­tion meant that Mont­gomery County would have a model (child ad­vo­cacy cen­ter) no doubt about it.”

Of­fi­cials said that since 2009, Mis­sion Kids, which is a na­tion­ally ac­cred­ited cen­ter, has con­ducted more than 4,000 in­ter­views of county chil­dren with al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse, se­vere phys­i­cal abuse, In­ter­net crimes against chil­dren, hu­man traf­fick­ing and who have been wit­nesses to vi­o­lent crime.

PHO­TOS BY CARL HESSLER JR. — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele con­grat­u­lates of­fi­cials of the Mis­sion Kids Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, who re­ceived the 2018 Gover­nor’s Vic­tim Ser­vice Pathfinder Award.

BY CARL HESSLER JR. — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Ab­bie New­man, CEO of the Mis­sion Kids Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter in Mont­gomery County, ad­dresses crowd at the county court­house as the cen­ter re­ceives the 2018 Gover­nor’s Vic­tim Ser­vice Pathfinder Award.

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