Child Advocacy Center seeing growing need for services
HANNIBAL (WGEM) - Officials at an organization that serves kids dealing with physical abuse, sexual abuse or who witness violence say they’re seeing a growing demand for their services.
The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri operates offices in Hannibal and Memphis, Missouri, which serve Schuyler, Scotland, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Shelby, Marion, Monroe, Ralls and Pike Counties.
They said children are referred to them for a forensic interview through state’s Children’s Division when a hotline call has been made.
Officials said the number of interviews they do each year has been growing; in 2020 they did 186 interviews, 258 in 2021, and 149 since June 30, 2022.
Lead Child and Family Advocate Stacy Dotson said as people returned to schools and everything opened up post pandemic, they saw more victims coming forward. She said it’s a good sign as it means more children getting help.
“People are starting to talk about it more,” she said. “They are being more comfortable with it. Kids are starting to come forward and disclosing. It’s not such a taboo topic anymore.”
Dotson said they see children ages two to 17, but the most common group they see is eight to 12.
Dotson also said with schools back in session, kids can now seek out mandatory reporters at school and are more comfortable reporting abuse to them.
She said these interviews are important because it can help get them free mental health therapy, which can help them recover from their experiences.
She said a $2,500 grant from Jane’s Kids’ Fund is helping them keep the therapy free for the growing number of people needing it.
The organization said they did 158 sessions in Northeast Missouri in 2020, 267 in 2021, and 184 since June 30, 2022.
Therapy program services director Cyndi Himstedt said therapy is crucial for kid who have experienced trauma.
“Kids who go through a trauma and they don’t receive mental health services, that manifests in a negative way somewhere else in their life,” Himtedt said. “It tends to turn to drug abuse, substance abuse, poor relationships. Domestic violence repeats the cycle over and over again. It could lead to promiscuity. It could lead to a whole array of other problems if it’s not treated.”
She said witnesses and caregivers who were a part of any investigation are also eligible for free help. She said they have been seeing more of these groups utilizing their services.
She said the services are available to them for life, as trauma can come back as victims grow older.
For those wishing to inquire about their services can call (573) 221-2256.
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