Shelter for abused children to open in Arkadelphia this fall.
Plans to open a center for abused children in Arkadelphia were presented last week to the Clark County Pastor's Fellowship.
Christa Neal, executive director of the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center, discussed the plans for the center and how it will operate.
According to Neal, the board of directors agreed to name the center after the Malones for their work in obtaining funding for child safety center throughout the state.
"Nationally and statewide, there's been a somewhat recent move to developing these centers," said Neal.
The Child Abuse Hotline allows individuals to report cases of child abuse.
"When calls go into the hotline, they will either accept or not accept the report. Depending on what the report is, it will either then go to the state police, which is the crimes against children division, or DHS, the division of children and family services," said Neal.
According to Neal, her organization will receive referrals from the state police or DHS.
"What we are going to do is provide an array of services for the kiddos and families who find themselves in these positions," Neal said.
Neal said the purpose of the organization is to help children and their families from the first day a report is filed.
"We want to be a safe place for the children to come after there is a report of abuse," Neal said.
In the past, Neal noted that once there was a report of abuse, interviews would take place multiple times with multiple people.
"This is suppose to be a small, friendly environment. When the kids and the non-offending family member gets there, it's going to be a warm, inviting place for them," said Neal.
According to Neal, a joint investigation begins when a child is brought to the children's advocacy center.
A forensic interview, the collection of evidence, photos, witness interviews, and a medical treatment and exam are also contacted.
Neal said the interview with the forensic interviewer will be the only interview the child has to do. This will reduce the number of times the victim has to share their story with interviewers.
The CAC will coordinate case reviews with all team members such as law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, the forensic interviewer, a mental health provider, and a family advocate who will assist the child and their family during the entire process.
A SANE nurse (sexual abuse nurse examiner) will be staffed to provide an exam on the child.
In addition, trauma focus therapy will be provided to help the children understand that the abuse was not their fault and provide tools to help them overcome the hurt.
"I'm very passionate about getting the word out about abuse in our area. There are kids being abused everyday and I think it is something that people look away from," Neal said.
Neal said the local organization is starting from the ground up and that renovations are expected to being soon on a facility in the community.
The local center is in the process of obtaining state certification and is expected to start serving the community this fall.
Currently, there are centers in Hot Springs, Little Rock, Texarkana, and Pine Bluff.
It will serve the counties of Clark, Dallas, Ouachita, Nevada, and Pike.
According to Neal, the organization will operate on state funding, grants and private donations.
Anyone who would like to invite Neal to speak at their church or organization about the center or who would like to make a donation may contact her at (479) 806-6601.