Each quarter, Union Bank's Community Involvement Committee will highlight a local nonprofit. This quarter the spotlight is on the Child Advocacy Center.
“The CAC board has been one of the best boards and organizations I have had the pleasure of being involved in. The services that they provide are hard to talk about but so very needed in our community. In 2017, they assisted over 1210 child victims of abuse and neglect. This number has increased over 100% in the past ten years. The individuals working here are serving so many needs and are excellent at what they do. There is not a week that goes by without an article in the paper where I say to myself, the CAC played a role in the helping the victim. They are a wonderful, talented and needed organization.” - Leslie Gibbens
From its humble beginnings in 1998 in a dilapidated house in Antelope Park to its expansive current location (complete with their state-of-the-art Gary Lacey Training Center, custom-designed interview rooms and a talented mascot named Queso swimming happily in an aquarium), the Child advocacy Center has been providing a safe, child friendly location for conducting forensic interviews and medical evaluations for abused children for two decades. Under Director Lynn Ayer’s focused leadership and through the collective efforts of a committed Board of Directors, amazing staff, and dedicated volunteers, the CAC has established itself as an organization that makes a difference for children and families in Southeast Nebraska.
The cases seen at the CAC are children who are the victims, or alleged victims of, traumatic and often unfathomable events such as sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, kidnapping, violent crimes and/or exposure to illegal drugs. The abuse is often repeated and sustained, the trauma long-lasting. 99% of the child victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. While the CAC provides services for children up to 18 years of age, 73% of the children seen are under the age of 12. Another staggering statistic is that, 73% of the time, the abuser is a family member.
Children and their caregivers are referred to the CAC under various circumstances, including referrals from area schools, Health and Human Services, law enforcement and hospitals. Many have become comfortable with CAC staff through the school outreach program, and, recognizing that it’s ok to talk about abuse, have approached a family member, school counselor, teacher, or another trusted adult.
Once at the center, the child receives a comforting blanket and an explanatory tour to make the space and experience seem less scary. A medical exam and forensic interview follow, conducted by highly trained professionals in spaces intended for each specific purpose. The CAC Facility was designed to provide many distractions and calming factors for anxious visitors, with Child Advocates who are committed to providing caring support throughout the process. These other services may include case coordination with mental health care providers, court school to prepare the child for what will ensue in court and coordination of appointments, including a means to get there, when necessary. The CAC staff attends all court hearings, going to great lengths to help the child feel less intimidated when facing their accuser. Graduates of the program are invited to sign the stairwell, consisting two flights of heartfelt support. CAC also provides training to the community on how to identify, report and prevent child abuse. These training are offered in-house or off-site, in conjunction with the CAC’s community outreach program.
How you can help:
- Volunteer to assist with special events throughout the year such as Take a Stand for Kids Prevention & Awareness event in April and their signature event, Harvest of Hope at Junto Wine in September, among others. Please submit a volunteer application, found at http://www.smallvoices.org/what_you_can_do/volunteer_opportunities.html or contact Carole Tanner for more information.
- Volunteer to stuff envelopes, clean inside the facility, or help spruce up the grounds.
Donations of cash or of any of the items below are most appreciated.
- $10 gas station gift cards to help families who are struggling to get to court or therapy
- $10 Gift cards to Raising Canes, Amigos, Wendy’s McDonalds or Jimmy Johns for low-income families who end up spending hours at the CAC over mealtime
- Coffee K-cups for caregivers who visit the CAC
- Individually packaged healthy snacks (fruit snacks, Teddy Grahams, granola bars) and juice boxes for children who visit the CAC
To learn more about the Child Advocacy Center, or to donate to their various causes, visit http://www.smallvoices.org. If you have a Lincoln based organization that you support and would like others to learn more about, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org