Editorials, Opinion

The place where healing happens

On Aug. 1, the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center cut the ribbon on the center’s 700-square-foot addition and ceremonially welcomed the community to explore not just the new space, but all that MCCAC has to offer.

And just what does the center offer?

In a word: Help.

The MCCAC has four primary programs: the Child Advocacy Center Program, the Community Education Program, the Preventative Care Program and the Drug Endangered Children Program.

The first is what the MCCAC is known for: This is the service for children who have suffered abuse or traumatizing neglect. The center’s specialty is in forensic interviews — specifically, making them as comfortable, safe and non-traumatic for children as possible. Instead of a child having to tell the same story over and over  to a different adult in a different place, MCCAC brings all the pertinent people (law enforcement, attorneys, child protective services, mental/medical health professionals) into one room. This way, the child only has to tell their story once and can avoid the unnecessary pain of reliving the horror multiple times.

The above is the service that everyone prays they never need to use. But MCCAC offers other programs the community might want to take advantage of.

The Community Education Program is pretty self-explanatory: It offers education to the public on child abuse and prevention techniques, as well as information on resources available in the community.

The Preventative Care Program focuses on therapy for children and family advocacy. It works with children whom Monongalia County Schools have identified as being “at-risk.” These are kids who have experienced loss, significant anxiety and depressive symptoms, domestic violence in the home or other traumatic experiences.

The Drug Endangered Children Program is a wraparound service for families — including the children, parents, guardians and even foster parents — who have been impacted by alcohol and drug abuse. The program starts with a psychological evaluation to determine what kind of treatment is needed to improve the substance use problem, parent mental health, child mental health, parenting skills and the parent-child relationship.

While we can describe what the center does in very mundane, even clinical, terms, the reality of what the MCCAC actually does isn’t nearly so neat, so ordinary.

More often than not, the personnel at MCCAC are meeting with children and adults at the lowest points in their lives. They’re trying to help a young child find the words to describe the person who creeps into her room at night, or the time he was beaten bloody with a belt. They’re sitting in a room with a mother or father whose children were removed and who is trying to get sober. They’re handing tissues to the preteen who feels like grief is swallowing them whole or waiting patiently for the teenager who keeps having panic attacks in class and skipping school to finally open up about what’s troubling them.

As a society, we try to keep the “bad things” — as vague and all-encompassing as that term may be — on the periphery, because we can’t go about our daily lives if all that pain is front and center. Because of that, healing also tends to happen on the periphery — quietly, tucked away in places like the Mon County Child Advocacy Center.