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The Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County expanded in 2020, which is both a good thing and a sad thing for Executive Director Natalie Tibbs.
It was good because it allowed CAC to provide services to abused children and their families in western Benton County, which had been needed. It was sad because child abuse counseling should not be a growth industry.
“It’s weird; our business is growing but it’s not really the type of business you want to see growing,” Tibbs said. “We have seen for several years that kids on the western side of our county were being underserved.”
The CAC West facility broke ground in Gentry just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and was completed by the end of October. In November and December, the facility saw approximately 40 children, children who previously may have been unable to visit CAC’s main facility in Rogers.
The pandemic presented challenges to CAC because it kept many children homebound, and unfortunately most abuse cases occur at home, Tibbs said. And with children not in school or other social places, there were fewer chances of a teacher or other concerned adult reporting children in need of help.
“Our center saw a huge decrease starting in April of the normal volume we typically see,” Tibbs said. “It wasn’t because abuse stopped happening, but we didn’t have eyes on kids the way we typically would. The hardest thing for us was knowing the reality of what was happening out there and feeling really helpless.”
Tibbs and the staff of 25 know that helping children overcome abuse is a “marathon” and requires patience, understanding and a host of services to deal with the trauma.
“It is harder than what any of us can humanly possibly deal with,” Tibbs said. “It is definitely a marathon working with children and healing brokenness. Seeing them overcome it is so rewarding. When you see them overcome some of the most difficult circumstances, that is why we are doing this.”