CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A statewide network to help victims of child abuse will be expanding deeper into West Virginia.

Thanks to a new partnership with the BrickStreet Insurance Foundation, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Center will be able to expand into areas of the state that were previously without the service.

“There are some really difficult places to serve and we knew that we needed to somehow find a way to incentivize expansion into those communities,” Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Center, said on a recent edition of WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show.”

The West Virginia Child Advocacy Center, was developed back in 2006 starting with just two facilities. Now, 38 of the 55 counties in the Mountain State are served by the West Virginia Child Advocacy Center, which intends to provide children who are victims of abuse an avenue that may have been unavailable to them in the past.

With the new partnership, four new counties will see service — those being Barbour, Jackson, Taylor and Wirt.

“The partnership has been invaluable because we have the business expertise and true engagement with this process from BrickStreet to make sure that this is going to be successful because this is their investment as well as ours,” Chittenden-Laird said.

A child advocacy center is a facility that works to reduce the trauma often experienced by children who are victims of abuse. These child-friendly facilities are staffed with professionals with varying expertise involving the system of treating children who are abuse victims. This includes participation with child protection, law enforcement and other professionals.

“The centers are designed to coordinate that whole community response,” Chittenden-Laird said. “Instead of that child getting interviewed at the police station, and then at their school, and at their house, they are welcomed to the child advocacy center.”

With their new partnership, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Center will look to continue expansion of their efforts throughout the Mountain State. Along with the four counties already being brought into the fold, the remaining thirteen counties are expected to be included as a result of the partnership, including Wayne, Mason, and Putnam counties.

“Our goal has been that every county would have that team coordination and that centralization of the child’s needs around all the different services, and also that that child wouldn’t have to travel far to receive those services,” Chittenden-Laird said.

The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network hopes to serve every county in the Mountain State, within the next five years.

Story by Joe Nelson

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