FREEHOLD – In the old days, a child abuse victim in Monmouth County would have to endure a complicated, draining process on the road to safety.
“They might tell a teacher and then talk to a school nurse or social worker and possibly the principal, and all those people would question the child before they called child protection (services),” said Sue Rekedal, a social worker who has dealt with such cases for 40 years. “Then child protection would call a police officer. That was all before they would decide to take the child to the hospital.”
Since opening in 2009, the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center has sought to make that road easier. The CAC, one of 11 such centers in New Jersey as part of the National Children’s Alliance, houses a team of social workers, specially trained law enforcement officers and forensics experts who can meet with an endangered child under one roof within an hour’s notice.
But there’s one more piece to the puzzle, and the CAC is working on completing what it calls “phase two” — with the help of donations.
“We don’t have a medical suite, and we don’t have the ability to deal with the family afterward in terms of therapy,” said Lynn Reich, who serves as secretary of the Friends of Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center. “Phase two has a medical suite, a nurse’s station, a group therapy room and an art therapy room.”
Construction of the 4,200-square-foot addition is underway and expected to be finished before September. But Reich said the Friends of MCCAC needs to raise $250,000 to complete the project by furnishing the new rooms.
“The goal is one-stop shopping under one child-friendly roof, instead of dragging victims all across the county to the sterile environments of police departments and emergency rooms,” acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said. “This is one of the best models I’ve seen created in law enforcement.”
The CAC has seen 600 cases over the past year, twice the amount of its inaugural year in 2009-10.
“It’s an unfortunate success, but because of visibility and us being able to investigate and prosecute these kinds of cases, people are more inclined to come forward,” Gramiccioni said. “These things are hard to admit — you run the risk of making a disclosure, then it goes nowhere and creates and even worse home scenario for that child. But I like to think because of what we do here, if somebody has gone through this, there is a greater inclination to disclose this because they’re going to be in good hands.”
Personalized floor bricks for the CAC’s expansion may be purchased for $250. Room naming-rights are available for $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000. Contributions of any amount are welcome and can be made at http://friendsofmccac.org/donate/