Searcy, White County, Arkansas – Congressional District 2
Robin Connell, Executive Director
Child Safety Center of White County
Child abuse is growing at 10 times the rate of cancer. Yes, 10 times; an alarming statistic. The Child Safety Center of White County, Arkansas, was organized in 2008. Sadly, the center’s increasing case load resulted in a new 4,200 sf facility built, in part, with CDBG funds in 2015 and a 1500 sf expansion in 2019, again partly funded with CDBG funds. In the last 10 years, over 3,200 children have been served from the White County facility.
When the new 4,200 sf facility was constructed in 2015, the center had four employees and served 300 children annually. In 2019, the staff had grown to 10 and the client load increased to 425 annually. The Safety Center is the closest center that does sexual assault medical exams for northcentral Arkansas.
The expansion of the center allowed additional trauma therapy space, an office to house the Arkansas State Police investigator onsite and an office for an Education/Prevention specialist. The expanded training room is available twice a month for Multidisciplinary Team meetings to discuss all high priority child abuse cases. The Team is comprised of the White County Sheriff’s office, Searcy Police Department, Department of Human Services, Arkansas State Police, Prosecutor’s office, Safety Center staff and other local area police departments. The team investigates all crimes against children in the area.
Current national statistics indicate that 17 children are abused every second! Current statistics also show that 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Ninety percent of child abuse victims NEVER tell anyone and 95% of victims know their perpetrator. In Arkansas alone last year over 3,000 children were served at the 13 advocacy centers. Child abuse is not just a national epidemic, it is a local epidemic. However….there is hope for healing.
An advocacy center is a child-focused center that coordinates the investigation, The Center emphasizes the coordination of investigation and intervention services by bringing together the needed resources from DHS, local law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division, medical and mental health services to create a child-focused approach to child abuse cases.
Once a child discloses sexual abuse they have to tell their story an average of eight times. Every time they tell that story it re-traumatizes the child, but an advocacy center allows all of the necessary professionals to come to a neutral location to have the child tell their story only once. Investigators bring alleged victims of sexual abuse to our child friendly neutral environment to be forensically interviewed, to receive sexual assault medical exams, to be assessed by a mental health professional, and to receive various other supportive services. The Center has a specially trained child forensic interviewer on staff that interviews victims while investigators listen from another room. That interview is recorded and a copy is given to all parties involved in the investigation. Hopefully that child will not have to tell that story again unless it is on a witness stand.
Many children will need a sexual assault exam and we offer that service onsite by specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), who work under the supervision of a local pediatrician as well as Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Nurses are able to collect evidence collection kits for law enforcement, test for STD’s, and diagnose possible injury. The Center also has a trauma psychotherapist on staff who gives each child we serve a mental health assessment. If a child’s assessment shows moderate to high levels of trauma then the therapist is able to offer onsite mental health services to that family. The Center staff also can refer clients to various community mental health providers. In addition to medical and mental health services, the Center also offers family advocacy services and court preparation/support services. Center Staff walk every step with the family through the investigative process and continue to offer support services as long as needed. What is unique about the White County center is that none of the services we offer cost the family a penny. We absorb all costs and even offer gas cards to families who travel from outside White county.
Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson
University of Arkansas for Medical Services (UAMS)
Arkansas Children’s Hospital
State Senator Jonathan Dismang
Chief of Police/Sheriff
Sheriff Office Detectives
Division of Children and Family Services
Drug Court Probation Officer
Families, Inc., Counseling Services
Three Rivers Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse
Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator for White and Lonoke Counties
SCM Architects (all Design fees were donated free of charge on both projects)
Private Resources: $311,309
Public Funds: $200,000