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In the past year, Child Advocacy Centers in West Virginia served 4,703 children which was a 20 percent increase in new children served in the last five years, according to a new report.
On Tuesday morning, The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network (WVCAN) released an annual report of service from the state’s 21 Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) where child protection, criminal justice, and child treatment professionals work together to investigate abuse, hold offenders accountable, and help children heal.
Kate Flack, CEO of WVCAN, said operating under the CAC model, instead of referring victims between agencies where children may be subjected to multiple interviews, is proving more effective.
“They coordinate the response around the child for an effective child-centered healing process,” Flack said. “We support multidisciplinary approaches to ensure that child victims of abuse have the best outcomes in our state. So we also work to make sure that local communities are empowered to provide this comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to victims of child abuse.”
WVCAN currently works with 45 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, serving 94 percent of the state’s population. But Flack worries about the six percent of the population not served by a CAC, leaving 33,770 children without these resources.
“For a community to decide that they want to do that, they’re making a really big statement in support of their kids and families in their communities,” Flack said. “So it’s a lot of work, but we do want to show that in West Virginia, even in the last 15 years, we went from only a couple of CACs to now 21 serving 45 counties.”
In an effort to bring awareness to children’s health needs and destigmatize the issue, the report includes data on victim demographics and statistics.
“By providing very positive messaging and education around what support exists and how children can go on to lead very healthy, happy lives, even in the wake of abuse, we are seeing a de-stigmatization of being a survivor of child sexual abuse,” Flack said. “Overall in thecountry, the prevalence and incidence of child abuse is decreasing overall, especially in the sexual abuse arena, and we really attribute that to education, awareness, and more quick reporting.”
If people suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, they can call the West Virginia hotline at 1-800-352-6513 or visit WVCAN’s website.