CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time in more than a decade the New Year will begin with a new executive director leading the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, the organization providing assistance to abused kids in the Mountain State and their families.

Kate Flack

Kate Flack officially takes over for Emily Chittenden-Laird, the outgoing founding director of WV CAN, on Jan. 1, but the two have already been working in tandem in recent weeks.

“I’m really excited, optimistic and hopeful that I can really bring a lot of positive movement to this important work,” Flack said.

She joins the Child Advocacy Network after working most recently as communications and development director for YWCA Charleston and, prior to that, in various fundraising, communications and marketing roles in the Capital City.

A native of Virginia, Flack first came to West Virginia to pursue her master’s degree in public health at West Virginia University.

“Over time, I’ve really just been able to work with a lot of different, great organizations helping in different ways,” she said.

“At this point, having the opportunity to be an executive director of a statewide nonprofit was really attractive to me, especially working on an issue like child abuse.”

As she begins, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network is in the process of expanding.

During the past ten years, the network has grown from two Child Advocacy Centers to 21 with coverage now in 42 West Virginia counties.

Using funding from The BrickStreet Foundation along with matching dollars, the goal is to expand services to all 55 counties within the next five years.

“While I’m proud of the accomplishments of the past decade, I’m even more excited about what the next decade holds for our centers,” said Chittenden-Laird in a statement.

“There are big plans ahead.”

The advocacy centers are designed to be child-friendly spaces providing forensic interviews and comprehensive support services for physically and sexually abused or neglected children and their families.

“It’s the least traumatic, most coordinated model and approach to helping children and it’s really changing the way that teams work together. It’s changing the way that children’s outcomes will look,” Flack said.

“It’s just a really beautiful way of putting the priority on children and helping them to heal from this abuse.”

When the 2019 Regular Legislative Session begins on Jan. 9, Flack said those with the Child Advocacy Network would be focused on bills affecting child welfare adding to her new responsibilities.

“Anytime you start something new, there’s a certain amount of unknowns and that always gives you a sense of nervousness, but that also makes you realize how important it is that you figure it out,” Flack said.