SARTELL -- It's a topic that's often swept under the rug but it's finally coming to light, child abuse.

"At this point, we just hit our two-year mark, we have served about 450 children."

The Central Minnesota Child Advocacy Center is working to help child abuse victims share their stories. The center was created in 2016 in a partnership between CentraCare Health and the Stearns County Attorney's office. It works with children in Stearns and Benton Counties.

Katie Boecker is the Central Minnesota Child Advocacy Center's Director. She says the center helps bring all agencies together to interview the child one time.

"What we do here is we work with a multi-disciplinary team. Such as law enforcement, child protection, prosecutors, mental health, medical, advocacy. And they all come to our center, under one roof, to help serve victims of child abuse."

Boecker says one person does the interview with the child and then in a separate room all of the other professionals can watch a live stream of the interview and ask questions via text message.

"When the child does come to our center we complete the forensic interview. They talk to one person, tell their story one time so they don't have to talk to multiple people reliving that story of abuse over and over again."

Before the creation of the center children would often have to tell their stories about 15 times.

"So first if they talked to their teacher at school, then they would have to talk to the nurse which would have to refer them to a doctor, which would refer them to another doctor who specializes in child abuse and law enforcement and child protection, the prosecutor, the judge. You can keep on going down the list of how many individuals that child would have to tell their story to. It really retraumatizes the child and often they feel like they aren't believed."

Along with the interview, the child advocacy center offers a free medical exam to the victim. Boecker says their number one priority is making every child feel safe and comfortable.

"We have a rainforest theme within our center, very colorful, very child-friendly, lots of toys, we have that in our waiting room as well as we also have that in the medical room."

The Central Minnesota Child Advocacy Center has been selected as the beneficiary of CentraCare Health's community campaign. The center is fully funded by grants and donations. Every year it costs about $600,000 to run the facility.

In the future, the center would like to expand to serve more area counties.

If you would like to donate to the Central Minnesota Child Advocacy Center, follow the link below.

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