Local child advocacy center moves to bigger facility to help serve more victims of abuse
RIGBY — The Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center said goodbye to its small Rexburg office and recently opened the doors to a larger building, where staff hopes to help more victims of abuse.
The child advocacy center was originally housed in the Family Crisis Center from August 2015 to January 2019. The organization then moved out and into a tiny workspace. About a month ago, it relocated to 162 N. Yellowstone Highway in Rigby. The new location has room for more expansion in the future, Executive Director Kimber Tower said.
“This spot is centrally located — it’s right off the highway,” Tower said. “We’re actually kind of hidden in plain sight. We like that because it adds another layer of anonymity and security for our families, which is important for what we do.”
Program Director Ashley Stallings said since 2015, they’ve worked over 400 child abuse cases. Now that they’ve relocated to a bigger lot, they look forward to what opportunities that might bring.
“I think the reason we’ve grown so much and are able to be in this beautiful building is because of our community partners and the community support,” Stallings said. “The people we work with like law enforcement, prosecutors, probation, all of our team members have supported what we do and have really gotten behind the CAC (child advocacy center) model. I think a lot of our ability to be here and serve more families is because of their belief in us and their belief in helping these families the right way.”
The Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center helps abused children and teenagers, typically 18 and under, feel whole again by providing support, love and healing services. They also help victims’ families get back on their feet.
“It’s important that the child comes in and only tells their story once. Prior to child advocacy centers, the child would talk to a detective, doctor, prosector, then Child Protective Services. They were having to retell their story five or six times. That’s traumatizing,” Stallings said. “The fact that they can come here to someone that’s trained to talk to them and tell their story one time … they can have that burden lifted. Then we can move on to the important part, which is healing, counseling, support and services for these families.”
Tower said Idaho has seven Child Advocacy Centers, and the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center serves Bonneville, Clark, Fremont, Jefferson, Madison and Teton counties.
Once a month, the center meets with professionals such as detectives, prosecutors and medical personnel from each county. They discuss cases they’re working on together.
“Research shows that with the team approach, not only do cases make it more often to charges and to the criminal justice process, but also, more importantly, the healing for these families when we all work as a team, is so much more,” Stallings said. “They feel like they have a team behind them. … They feel like they’re not alone and that everybody on the team has their back. That’s the most important piece in the process.”
During those meetings, the child advocacy center acts as a voice for the families.
“At the end of the day, we’re just passionate about helping children, especially those that have had things happen to them that should never happen to them,” Stallings said. “Being there for these families in a time that’s so hard and difficult — that calls to us.”
If you would like to volunteer or donate to the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center, click here.