New child advocacy center to open in December

November 15, 2018

MANKATO — The Child and Family Advocacy Center of South Central Minnesota is primed for a December opening, providing a new resource for children in crisis.

The resource operating out of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s Eastridge clinic will be where law enforcement and child protective services officials bring young victims of crime for interviews.

The hope is the advocacy center will be a more appropriate environment for children experiencing a crisis, as opposed to the nearby Justice Center.

“The ultimate goal would be to have a one-stop shop where it’s a welcoming environment, and even keeping individuals out of the emergency department unless it’s a true acute case where their physical needs have to be addressed right away,” said Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott.

The Blue Earth County Board approved a $172,000 grant for the project from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety at its meeting Tuesday. The grant program is specifically designed to support county efforts to open child advocacy centers.

McDermott said the funding, which will largely cover staffing, was crucial to open the resource as hoped this year.

“Without the grant from the state, we wouldn’t be at this juncture,” he said.

Several other pieces fell in place to make the advocacy center possible after years of planning. When Mayo in Mankato opened its children’s center at Eastridge in June, the health system designated rooms to be available for the advocacy center.

At least three rooms will be available for investigators and advocates to interview the children. Medical staff also could be called upon in short order if needed.

McDermott said the county currently averages about one forensic interview per week. He expected the usage to go up as more counties begin using the center.

The project is county driven but won’t be county run after it opens. The advocacy center will operate as its own nonprofit, requiring fundraising and/or alternate grant funding to maintain itself.

The $172,000 will be used to cover the center’s first year, after which time alternate funding sources will be needed. The county also is partnering with the Committee Against Domestic Abuse and Minnesota State University to provide victim and child advocacy services and social work interns.

The advocacy center will start out largely serving Blue Earth County, although it’ll eventually be available for the entire region. The closest similar resource is in Rochester or the Twin Cities.

Commissioners reacted positively to the grant before unanimously approving it.

“This gives a little more friendly and a little bit better environment for a child when something happens,” said Commissioner Mark Piepho. “It’s a good thing for the kids for sure.”

An open house will be scheduled in December for the public to view the space.

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