Mission Kids honored by governor
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.
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.
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.