Children's Advocacy Center Making an Impact
Despite only being open for a little more than five months, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County (CAC) has already had a big impact on the community.
The center, located at Mount Nittany Health’s Medical Park Lane, provides collaborative care to children who may have been abused, according to its website. By gathering representatives from multiple organizations together at one time to interview young victims -- the kids are spared the anguish of answering painful questions over and over.
One of the main goals of the center is to bring “awareness that child abuse is prevalent in every community” and “provide the community the opportunity to be involved in combating the issue and educating the community as well,” says Kristina Taylor-Porter, CAC director.
Being the only Children’s Advocacy Center in central Pennsylvania, Taylor-Porter says a lot of surrounding counties have been utilizing its services for interviews and exams.
“We’ve definitely been working on building relationships with the surrounding counties,” she says. “Our approach is to ensure that there’s a team … in the investigation of child abuse. It may be a little different than what the counties are used to, but we really push to make sure that the kids are getting the best service, not only from the CAC but from the team that’s supposed to be doing the investigation.”
“We’re still developing our best procedures,” Taylor-Porter says. “Every CAC is different and working in different counties, we really have to adjust to the culture of that county.”
A major struggle in other counties is the availability of mental health services. This is true not only for the child, but also for family members who might need help as well.
The center recently selected a governing board, which Taylor-Porter says meets quarterly.
“They are making sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community and we’re representing CACs well within Pennsylvania,” Taylor-Porter says. The center is up for accreditation through the National Children’s Alliance, which is the national association and accrediting body for CACs, and the board is currently making sure those standards are being met.
Board members include: Patricia Best, Steve Brown, Herb Hand, Jack Infield and Kim Neely.
The center also recently hired Kimberly Saltsman, to conduct forensic interviews. Taylor-Porter says Saltsman comes in “highly-trained and prepared to conduct the interviews.” To even further her training, however, Saltsman will continue to attend various trainings. Taylor-Porter says, “We’re blessed to have her on board.”
“Part of what we do is also the medical exam onsite directly after our forensic interviews to ensure the child’s needs are being met,” Taylor-Porter says. “One of the things that we would like to have is additional trained staff to conduct those exams for emergency cases.” The center has submitted a grant proposal to the District Attorney’s office to obtain money for this.
In addition, the center received funds this year from Penn State’s 2013-14 bowl money. In all, the 12 Big Ten conference schools, including Penn State, were given a portion of what would have been Penn State’s bowl game revenue for the season to distribute to the child-focused agencies of their choice, according to Erin Welsh, Mount Nittany Health communications coordinator.
This year, Penn State gave half of its allocated funds, $114,693.88, to the center, she says. The other half was distributed to the Stewards of Children Program.
“That has been a huge help in terms of assisting in our financial needs,” Taylor-Porter says. “The fact that we’re receiving additional funds to support and sustain our services is validation that our services are much needed in the community.”