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"It is our goal to eradicate child abuse in all its forms within the next three generations." This is the mission of the Southern Regional Training Center at the NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville.
Wyley Elliot, vice president for public relations and development at NWACC, told the Benton-Bauxite Rotary Club on Tuesday that more than 1 million people in the United States are impacted by child abuse and neglect each year.
The meeting was held at Brown's Country Store and Restaurant.
"Imagine filling every seat in War Memorial Stadium," Elliot said. "Then fill it again 20 times and you get an idea of how many people are affected."
He added, "$80 million a year is spent on the aftermath of abuse."
To meet the goal of eradicating child abuse and neglect, Elliot proposed taking the approach of prevention and education.
The Southern Regional Training Center is one of four centers under the direction of the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Wis.
Amy Benincosa, the center's development coordinator, explained the training program is extensive and comprehensive.
"I am a former teacher and the only training I received about dealing with child abuse issues during my college education was a one-hour course on the signs of abuse and the phone number to call to report abuse allegations," she said.
Benincosa said the training at the facility is reality-based for mandated reporters of abuse, such as professionals in the fields of social work, education, health professions, counseling, law enforcement and the justice system.
The goal is to help these professionals to detect child abuse, promote early intervention, improve investigation, prosecution and litigation procedures involving children who have been victims of abuse.
Stephanie Smith, regional director of the Southern Regional Center, said, "To end child abuse, we have to engage everyone."
The training provided at the center involves real-life experiences that are written into scenarios in which actors portray the various roles of family members, witnesses and the victim.
The next training session will take place in a former police training facility comprised of an old house and lot made to look like a drug house. The three-day course will involve interviews with the alleged victim(s) and family members conducted by social workers, police officers and attorneys who have come to learn. The team must work together in order to complete the investigation and find all the clues as to the facts of the simulated case.
"Oftentimes, professionals in this type of situation have turf wars, but in order to be an effective advocate for the victim, the group must work as one unit for the best interest of the victim," Smith said.
The Southern Regional Center currently is conducting a fundraising campaign for the remodeling of a new facility in Bentonville. When completed, the center will "serve the future and current child protection professionals in a 16-state southern region," Elliot said.
The campaign, titled "know abuse, no abuse," has a goal of $3 million to complete the renovation plans. The facility includes a two-story mock home, two mock courtrooms, child forensic interview rooms, a medical exam training room and video playback rooms for students and instructors to critique their performance during the situation simulations. The center also has a webinar center and a training room dedicated to education of online crimes against children.
Individual interested in the program may contact Elliott at 479-936-5174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.