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Family Crisis Center stops child advocacy services as 3 employees launch new organization

Rexburg

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The Family Crisis Center on Main Street in Rexburg. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — The Family Crisis Center in Rexburg dissolved its child advocacy services last week, prompting several former employees to jumpstart a new advocacy organization.

In a statement, the Family Crisis Center Board of Directors said the decision was made over the past year to transition the child advocacy services to a separate organization.

“It was the best decision made by our board for everyone involved,” Margie Harris, the director of the Family Crisis Center, told EastIdahoNews.com.

The Family Crisis Center began providing child advocacy services in 2015. Those services include evaluating and investigating cases of child abuse and helping children and their families connect with counseling services.

A federal grant was funding the child advocacy services at the crisis center. The grant was set to expire June 30.

It’s unclear why the crisis center opted to dissolve the advocacy program before the grant expired, but on Wednesday, the three child advocates employed by the grant — Kimber Tower, Ashley Stallings and Nahoimin Aponte — were let go.

“They came to us with 20 minutes notice with no reason to why it’s being dissolved,” Aponte said. “The only statement was that we are dissolving the child advocacy program at noon today.”

Harris told EastIdahoNews.com it would be inappropriate to answer questions about the separation of the organizations.

She did say the center is working with its funding sources to move the grant money from the child advocacy services to other areas of the center or return it to the funding agency. The Family Crisis Center did not release further details on the grant.

When the Family Crisis Center started its child advocacy project in 2015, the plans were to provide services to around 20 children a year, Tower says. However, demand quickly exceeded expectations, and in 2018, Tower says the center encouraged the three employees to develop a separate organization in their spare time.

Initially, the former employees said, the plan had been for them to work until June 30, after which they would leave the center and transition entirely to the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center.

Now the three employees say they are scrambling to get the organization up and running ahead of schedule.

The organization’s biggest issue is money. Until it is completely up and running, the child advocates will be working as volunteers.

The Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center is accepting donations through its website, and a fundraising event will be held Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at The Venue in Rigby.

It also continues to work toward full accreditation as a child advocacy center.

The UVCAC has attained associate membership status through the National Children’s Alliance, the national association and accrediting body for children’s advocacy centers. Obtaining associate membership status requires the UVCAC to be working towards implementation of all accreditation standards.

The advocates have the experience for accreditation. Combined, they have conducted 300 forensic interviews of children for law enforcement and completed more than 900 hours of child advocacy training, Tower said.

The organization is also moving into the Madison Professional Plaza in Rexburg, as one of the accreditation requirements is a facility designated for interviews of children.

In a statement, the Family Crisis Center thanked the child advocates for their commitment to children in need. The crisis center will continue to focus on domestic violence and sexual assault services.

Tower said the UVCAC wishes the Family Crisis Center the best as it moves forward with its adult services. She also said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.

“We learned when something terrible happens, east Idaho will make something great happen,” she said.

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