The Child Protection Center: Advocating for kids who’ve experienced abuse or violence

​​So you know how we invest your sales tax dollars, we’re proud to put the spotlight on some of the many Jackson County organizations we fund.

Since 1996, the nationally accredited Child Protection Center (CPC) has been an advocate and safe haven for young people in Jackson County. 

“The Child Protection Center provides forensic interviews, advocacy, mental health services, prevention and training for children and families who have experienced physical or sexual abuse or witnessed violence,” said Lisa Mizell, the Child Protection Center President and CEO. “We work closely with a multidisciplinary team to make sure those cases move through the system in a way that protects the child.”

The CPC works closely with law enforcement in Jackson, Cass and Lafayette counties; the Missouri Children’s Division; the Safety, Care & Nurturing (SCAN) Clinic at Children’s Mercy Kansas City (another CSF partner); the Missouri Office of Juvenile Justice; and the Jackson County Prosecutor to make sure children are heard and families are supported. The CPC also collaborates with CSF partners, including Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), on abuse prevention projects. 

Law enforcement, the Children’s Division, and Children’s Mercy Kansas City all refer children and families to the CPC after suspected abuse or a violent incident occurs. Children meet with a specially trained forensic interviewer in a safe, supported environment. Their session is digitally recorded and shared with pertinent  professionals in each case, so the child doesn’t have to be questioned more than necessary.  

Child and Family Trauma Treatment

After the forensic interview, the CPC offers mental health services to children and their families. This trauma therapy has been supported by the Children’s Services Fund since 2018. 

The CPC provides both long- and short-term therapy modalities, including Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), and Integrative Treatment of Complex Trauma (ITCT).  The program has three full-time therapists and a clinical intern in addition to Dawn McClendenen-Moon, CPC Director of Clinical Services, who sees patients part-time. 

“In 2022, we saw 111 kids from Jackson County,” said Dawn. “This year, because we’ve been able to hire more therapists, we’ve seen 78 kids in just the first quarter.” 

Dawn told the story of a family that represents the experiences of many who receive therapy from the CPC. A 10-year-old girl came in for a forensic interview after she was sexually abused by a family member. Her parents were devastated; it was someone they had trusted. 

“She was really struggling with all sorts of trauma symptoms, like nightmares and bedwetting,” Dawn said. “She was extremely shut down and struggling just to function in school. Her parents felt like they couldn’t reach her.” 

She received TF-CBT and completed the entire 12 to 18-month program; her parents received support from the CPC as well. 

“Her functioning has improved significantly,” reported Dawn. “Her trauma symptoms went down 50 percent. At school, she changed completely: Her grades got better, and she has friends.” 

Dawn stresses that there’s still hard things ahead for the patient and her family, including an upcoming trial. “They have the tools they need to be able to cope with things as they come up,” said Dawn. 

“We received funding the very first year that CSF allocated funds,” said Lisa, reiterating the difference the trauma therapy program makes in families’ lives. “We’ve had it from the beginning; we’re really fortunate. It’s been a major contributor to our mental health program and its growth.”

ACT Raising Safe Kids Program & Training Coordination

The CSF also funds the ACT Raising Safe Kids Program, recently transitioned to CPC from Children’s Mercy, and supports the majority of a Director of Prevention and Training  position held by Tyann Wiederholt. 

“Tyann works with our multidisciplinary team to provide all the training we need to make sure that child abuse is being investigated in a way that benefits the family and the child and moves the case forward,” said Lisa. 

The ACT Raising Safe Kids Program was developed by the American Psychological Association and is designed to teach positive parenting skills to caregivers raising young children. The program has been proven to increase positive discipline practices, violence prevention, nurturing behavior and more. The CSF funds two contract ACT Master Trainers, who work with parents and other organizations (including CSF partners) who want to offer the program to their clients. 

“For allegations of physical abuse, there’s really been a push [at the Children’s Division] to help keep kids in their home,” said Lisa. “Finding a way to help those parents parent in a safe way is really important. We’re going to try to work with them to get as many parents into the ACT program as possible.”

What’s next for the CPC?

The CPC is continuing to expand its trauma therapy and ACT programs. It is also about to complete a capital campaign that will almost triple its facility size, creating more opportunities for counseling and training. They will be moving into their new location, 2940 Main Street, in the spring/summer of 2023. 

“That will allow us to provide additional therapy, observation, forensic interviews — all the things,” said Laura Willeke, Director of Development. “We’re currently in 4,500 square feet, and the [new] building is just over 14,000 square feet. We’re going to be able to provide a lot more services to more people.” 

The CPC hopes this will help more people know what they do and why. 

“We don’t charge anybody, not for mental health services, not for forensic interviews,” Lisa stressed. “We’re here for children and families in Jackson County to have a safe place to share their story.”

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