Expansion gives organization the ability to help more children heal from abuse

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 12:25 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The CDC reports that at least one in seven children experienced child abuse or neglect during the past year. Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center works to change these statistics.

Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center officials saw an increased demand for services over the past year. In response, they opened a satellite operation in Dickinson in 2020 and have now moved into a new facility in Bismarck.

At the facility, forensic interviewers can meet with children in two child-friendly interview rooms. The expansion doubled the number of children that staff can accommodate which has allowed them to reach all children on the waitlist.

“Before, a child would wait weeks at a time in order to come in for an interview that they disclosed about something happening to them and it’s just not right. It’s not right to make them wait and it’s also not helpful for any sort of legal proceedings that might happen,” said Kori Weigel, a forensic interviewer at Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center.

The center puts together teams of professionals to help a child from the first report of abuse through conviction.

“We want them to be comfortable and have them tell their story one time. To have to tell a story over and over is not easy, so one time, get the facts and get everything moving to help their healing,” said Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center director of development and engagement Jane Link.

Officials set up a Caring Closet clothing service and provide kids with comfort items, such as blankets. Therapy services have been expanded to include other programs, such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. The center also received a grant to train a therapy dog.

But the center’s not done growing.

“We can hopefully hire another advocate someday so that we can see and help just as many families and parents of those children through advocacy services,” added Weigel.

The organization serves over half of the state with the facility in Bismarck, Dickinson satellite operations and telehealth outreach into rural North Dakota.

Staff are holding an open house for the new Bismarck facility on August 4th.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call Child Protection Services toll-free at 1-833-958-3500. Callers can remain anonymous. For other therapy services at Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center, call 701-323-5626.

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