The Moline-based Child Abuse Council is bringing new mental health and medical services to children and families in Muscatine and surrounding southeast Iowa counties, through its Mississippi Valley Child Protection Center.
The program is part of a nationwide network of child advocacy centers that provide services to lessen immediate and long-term negative impacts of child abuse and neglect on children, families, and their communities.
The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust recently awarded a three-year, $175,000 grant to enhance the program’s coordinated approach and improve access to crucial resources for underserved rural communities.
“We are the only rural child advocacy center in Iowa, and we know how important it is to ensure that these services remain available within those communities,” Mark Mathews, executive director of the Child Abuse Council, said in a Wednesday release. “Our new mental health and medical services will allow us to do even more than we’ve been able to in the past to support safe and healthy childhoods.”
Program Manager Kadie McCory sees the grant as an opportunity to reimagine the program by forging new partnerships and offering a fuller range of services, the release said.
“The purpose of our program is to bring the community together for a holistic response to child abuse and neglect, from mental health and medical services to child welfare, law enforcement, and community resources,” she said. “Now, we can ask what’s missing or not being provided in the community to help strengthen this unified, comprehensive approach.”
The program’s new trauma-informed, research-based therapy services will help reduce children’s abuse-related symptoms, build their coping skills, and support child and caregiver attachment.
Expanded medical services will better identify and treat medical conditions associated with physical abuse, drug endangerment, neglect, and foster placement. The new offerings will complement existing program features such as forensic interviews, medical examinations, family advocacy, and community education and training.
According to McCory, protecting access to wraparound services like these in rural communities is becoming an increasingly difficult—but no less important—task.
Each year, the Child Abuse Council’s child advocacy center (at 1600 Mulberry Ave., Muscatine) operates near or at capacity, serving 200 children primarily from Muscatine, Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, Cedar, and Lee counties.
The National Children’s Alliance, the accrediting body for child advocacy centers, has recognized lack of access to specialized services for victims of child abuse as a healthcare equity issue and has made increasing access its top goal.
“Without the Child Abuse Council and the support of our partners, these services simply aren’t available to children and families in this area,” said McCory. “And we know that those we serve face transportation, financial, and family support barriers—they can’t easily travel an hour away to receive services. So our presence here matters, and its impact on these kids is felt immediately and throughout their lives.”
Looking ahead, McCory said the Child Abuse Council will continue to seek out partners like the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, including law enforcement agencies and healthcare providers, who have a stake in the work of the child advocacy center, the release said.
“The changes we’re making prove how strong a program we have and that we’re able to grow,” she said. “We’re taking this opportunity to create something even better.”