McHenry County child advocacy group awarded American Rescue Plan Act funds

The Child Advocacy Center of McHenry County recently was awarded funding from Advance McHenry County, a government program administering American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The nonprofit organization has a mission to reduce trauma to child victims of abuse as the child's case works its way through the court system. It partners with local law enforcement agencies, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and other professionals.

It has been awarded $500,000 to be used in part to strengthen its multidisciplinary approach to the investigations. The funds are to be spent over five years.

"Since ... investigations are a team approach, CACMC sends groups of teams to be trained as often as possible," Misty Marinier, CACMC's executive director, said via email. "A team would consist of staff from CACMC, law enforcement, the State's Attorney's office, DCFS and medical and mental health specialists."

Teams will attend "in person as well as virtual trainings" both in and out-of-state "at no cost" to partnering agencies, Marinier said. Topics will vary, ranging from cultural competency to trauma-informed care.

The Child Advocacy Center of McHenry County is headquartered in Crystal Lake has been serving children since 1999. They provide their services to McHenry County residents under the age of 18.

Currently, there are about 40 similar advocacy centers in Illinois.

They were formed after a state law passed in 1989 mandated that each county establish a protocol for the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. The same law allowed the establishment of the advocacy centers - with the goal that the centers conduct sensitive, forensic interviews of the child.

Forensic interviewers are "specially trained to ask children a series of unbiased, non-leading questions in a one-on-one setting" that is comfortable for the child, according to the center's website.

The goal of the interview "is to elicit information about the abuse in an age- and developmentally-appropriate manner" as law enforcement, DCFS and medical and mental health professionals observe via a two-way mirror.

This process reduces the interviews to one rather than repeated interviews by each professional, which can add to the child's trauma.

As for the center's other uses for the American Rescue Plan Act funding: A portion will go directly to child victims and affected family members for clothing, personal hygiene items and gift cards for necessities such as groceries and gas. Another portion will be used to pay center staff.

Marinier is grateful for the support from the county.

"Due to the pandemic, CACMC was unable to host any fundraisers," Marinier said. "This was detrimental as we are grant and donor funded."

The Child Advocacy Center's request for American Rescue Plan Act funding was among the first of three approved by the county board. Other recipients are McHenry County College for equipment for its new Foglia center for technology and innovation; and Community High School District 155 (serving Bull Valley, Burtons Bridge, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Lake in the Hills, Lakewood, Oakwood Hills, Prairie Grove and Ridgefield) for job readiness programs.

Other American Rescue Plan Act funding requests are up for review on Feb. 15.

The American Rescue Plan Act is a federal coronavirus rescue package designed in part to facilitate the United States' recovery from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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