Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri, a not-for-profit child advocacy center headquartered in Joplin, Missouri has been providing victim assistance services since 1997. We serve sexually abused and/or physically abused children, or interview those who have witnessed violent crimes. Our center is available for children ages birth through 17, and their families. As a child advocacy center (CAC), Children’s Center provides benefits, both to victims and families as well as our community. The benefits of a CAC are readily apparent: consistent and prompt follow-up to reports of abuse; crisis intervention and crisis management; consistent, compassionate support for the child and family; referrals to professionals with expertise in specialized fields; reduces the need for multiple victim interviews; and increases successful prosecutions.
Children’s Center was founded in 1996 by a group of concerned citizens that believed children should not be repeatedly interviewed about an abusive incident. At that time, most children were interviewed in busy police departments or in their own homes where the abuse may have occurred. Medical exams were provided in chaotic emergency rooms where children waited for hours to get an exam. Prosecution rates were low, and the number of unresolved cases was high. With the intent of solving these problems, this citizen group became the first board of directors of Children’s Center. Our Joplin center opened May 5, 1997 with the purpose of helping sexually abused and severely physically abused children and their families.
Since then, our story of success and impact has continued:
- Unrelenting community interest and support in Barry and Lawrence Counties, lead to the opening of a second Children’s Center in Monett, Missouri. This center was opened in December of 2001, in a custom-built facility that was donated by the community to make a way for our child advocacy center.
- A hardworking community group in SWMO Missouri asked that a center be opened in Nevada to provide child advocacy services locally for children in Barton, Bates, Cedar, Dade, St. Clair and Vernon Counties. This center began providing services in January 2004 in space donated by Crowder College. In 2007, the Center moved to a building just off the Nevada Square. In January of 2016, the Center moved to its forever home, a custom-built facility located at 324 Mac Boulevard.
- Once again, a dedicated group of community individuals and a strong multidisciplinary team wanted to provide a better way to serve local victims. In October 2009, Children’s Center opened a fourth child advocacy center in Butler, Missouri.
- After a decade of providing direct service, we began to see the very real impact of the generational cycle of abuse. Cases of the abused becoming the abuser created a burden to do more. Supporting the victim through the interview and investigation was not enough. In December of 2016, The Children’s Center implemented a trauma-focused therapy program to help stop the cycle of abuse. We now have three licensed clinical therapists that offer free counseling services to victims in our 12-county service area.
Children’s Center of SW MO has provided advocacy services to over 20,000 children since opening in 1997. Services are available to all children, free of charge, regardless of religion, race, disability, national origin or ancestry. All facilities are handicap accessible.