Emily Rice Published

Senate Recognizes Child Advocacy Day

Closeup of unrecognizable woman hugging teenage girl with care and love. The girl holds a teddy bear.Seventyfour/Adobe Stock

The Senate passed a resolution making Monday Child Advocacy Day at the legislature. Special guests from the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, or WVCAN, were set up outside the Senate chambers to spread their message.

Kate Flack is the CEO of WVCAN. She said the group was at the Capitol to celebrate the work of local child advocacy centers and their multidisciplinary teams in the past year and to urge the lawmakers to continue to support services to child survivors of abuse.

“Every year, we want to make sure that kids are as safe as possible so that we have laws that keep them safe, that makes sure that those who perpetrate child abuse are held accountable,” Flack said. “We also make sure that the folks who are doing the hard work of supporting children and their healing journey are supported financially, that CPS has support, that law enforcement has support, that prosecuting attorneys have support and that kids have access to mental health services and medical services.”

According to Flack, in the last year 4,879 new children were served by WVCAN’s 21 child advocacy centers. 

“A child advocacy center is a child-friendly facility where treatment professionals and investigative professionals work together to hold offenders accountable and help kids heal,” Flack said. “So that includes law enforcement, CPS prosecuting attorneys, mental health providers, medical providers, our forensic interviewers and family advocates at the child advocacy centers. We meet monthly with each of those multidisciplinary investigative teams to coordinate on case outcomes to make sure that kids can heal and offenders are held accountable.”

WVCAN serves 46 of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

“We’re really proud of the work that’s being done, more than 10 percent increase in kids served in the last five years,” Flack said. “We know the services are no less needed now than they were before.”

Flack said WVCAN is expanding its mental health services through support from the Highmark Foundation.

“We’re looking to expand those services even further because we know that kids who have trauma histories do so much better when they get the type of support and medical and mental health support that they need,” Flack said.

A recent study of WVCAN’s services found that West Virginia children are 4.7 times more likely to encounter drug endangerment than the national average.

“Child advocacy centers really helped communities thrive, they are restoring the fabric of our society,” Flack said. “One in 10 kids will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. So this is not a small problem. We need all hands on deck to support these children. And so we are hopeful that the legislature will continue to do so.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.