Commonwealth Journal

November 17, 2011

Protecting Our Children

Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to the recent Penn State scandal involving child sexual abuse and the apparent lack of transparency involving under-aged children.

The Lake Cumberland Children’s Advocacy Center is located in Russell County and is state designated by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide services to child victims of alleged sexual abuse and their family members.

We provide services to the 10 counties in the Lake Cumberland region, consisting of Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, McCreary, Wayne, Pulaski, Russell and Taylor. We are located in Jamestown, Ky.-Russell County as the most central location to all 10 counties.

We have been in operation since 2002. Advocacy centers in Kentucky were first initiated in Kentucky by Gov. Paul Patton and First Lady Judi Patton, who were instrumental in the development and establishment of Child Advocacy centers to serve abused children in all 120 Kentucky counties.

Our center is a nonprofit 501(c)3 agency and receives funding from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Attorney General’s Office of Victim Advocacy, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky and other private donors.

The mission of our center is to serve children under the age of 18 who are alleged victims of sexual abuse. Our goal is to provide structured interviews and child sexual abuse medical examinations to children who have been identified as abused. That information is then used in joint investigations to assist in the prosecution of sex offenders of children.

Although the subject is difficult to read about and everyone wants to believe this does not happen in our community, our center alone served over 260 children last year. In the past four years since I have worked at the Advocacy Center, we have provided services to over 946 children! In total, all 15 Kentucky’s child advocacy centers provided services to over 4,000 children last year.

These numbers are astounding, considering that the total population of our 10 designated counties is only 200,000. These numbers do not reflect the total number of children seen by Social Services and Law Enforcement officials, in addition to the children we serve here at our center!

Sexual abuse of children is prevalent in all our communities. Younger children are particularly targeted. Children are most often abused by people they love and trust. Children are often “groomed” by perpetrators for months or years before abuse sometimes occurs. At our center, the majority of children to whom we provide services are aged 6 and under!

Professionals in our community address the issues of child abuse daily; although, it is often difficult for others to accept that abuse even occurs.

Adults in our community can help protect children by believing them when they ask for help or disclose abuse, abiding by mandatory reporting laws by calling the Child Abuse Helpline 1-800-752-6200 if you suspect abuse and by seeking professional assistance if you are concerned about the welfare of a child.

Our staff, as well as many other agencies in this area, are available to provide free training regarding the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse and to increase awareness of and reduce the likelihood of abuse.

Training can be held in your office, the community or at our center in Jamestown. Call our center at 1-877-588-4644 for more information.

Pamela T. Eads, LCSW, MSSW

Executive Director

Lake Cumberland Children’s Advocacy Center

P.O. Box 4

Jamestown, KY 42629