Somerset County Child Advocacy Center hosts open house
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Somerset County Child Advocacy Center is hosting an open house for the community from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the new location, 218 N. Kimberly Ave., Suite 4, Somerset.
Advisory board members will be present to talk about the services the center provides to victims and families affected by sexual and physical abuse. The CAC is a government-based child advocacy center that provides child abuse investigators access to trained professionals to assist with the evaluation of children when there are allegations of physical or sexual abuse. The center provides a child-friendly setting in which children and families have access to a specially trained forensic interviewer and referrals for medical examinations by forensically trained medical professionals.
The center also offers on-site victim advocacy, education, counseling, support and referrals for mental and behavioral health services.
“No other agency has drawn a team of professional and passionate people dedicated to serve those in our community affected by the devastating consequences of abuse,” District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, a CAC board member, said in a press release.
The idea of the CAC began in October 2013 with the establishment of the Somerset County Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team. At the onset, the team was composed of representatives from multiple agencies within Somerset County, including the district attorney’s office, Children & Youth Services, Pennsylvania State Police, Victim Services Inc., Somerset Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
The CAC opened in August 2014 within Somerset Hospital. In 2014 the center provided direct services to eight children and families. In 2017, 66 children received direct services at the CAC, and numerous others received referrals for services at partnering CACs and local community service providers.
In October, Somerset County and the center were awarded grant funding through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to create a co-location for services between the CAC and Victim Services. The new location provides sufficient space to house a director/forensic interviewer, a case manager, a victim advocate, a waiting room, an interview room for recorded forensic interviews, a conference room and a secure location for the center’s recording equipment.
To create a more welcoming and child-friendly atmosphere, artwork has been created and displayed throughout the center by Kim Logan, a local artist employed with Somerset County Children & Youth Services, and students from the Shanksville-Stonycreek School District.
The CAC is an affiliate member of the National Children’s Alliance.