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In photo left to right: Board Chair Maripeg Bruder, Executive Director Leslie Slingsby, State Representative Tim Briggs, CEO Abbie Newman

Program Award

Nominator: Maripeg Bruder, Board Chair, Mission Kids
Award Recipient: Mission Kids

Mission Kids has contributed efforts to the victim services field by serving child abuse victims and their families. They have been a leader, working with public and private community organizations and creating a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT), which is responsible for responding to child abuse allegations in Montgomery County.

Before Mission Kids, child abuse victims were forced to recount and relive their abuse during multiple interviews. Mission Kids coordinates services between the MDT and child abuse victims and their families to reduce additional trauma. They ensure that every child receives an interview in a child-friendly location by a trained forensic interviewer, and every child and family member receives access to immediate victim advocacy services, evidence based medical, and mental health services. Every child leaves Mission Kids with a teddy bear and a book.

Planning for the Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center began in 2004 by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. Mission Kids became a 501(c)(3) in 2007 and opened its child-friendly facility in 2009. Due to the increasing number of children and families it served, they moved to a new facility in August 2012. In 2012, they received national accreditation through the National Children's Alliance. In 2017, Mission Kids expanded into a new centrally-located, child-friendly center to better serve the growing number of new children and family members served each year. In 2017, Mission Kids served over 579 new children and their family members. 

Mission Kids has been a leader in the child advocacy field, and a strong voice for child abuse victims in Montgomery County. They have been a model in helping other Child Advocacy Centers build their core program and services. Staff serves on the Child Advocacy Advisory Committee and Victims' Services Advisory Committee for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Mission Kids also has representation on the Children's Trust Fund Board and the Board of Directors for ChildUSA.

Mission Kids has been proactive in responding to human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Montgomery County and providing guidance to other communities. They have joined with several partners for protocol and policy development for model practices regarding the identification, response, and treatment of human trafficking.

Mission Kids strategically partnered with Laurel House, which is a Montgomery County domestic violence agency, to better coordinate services for family violence issues. Mission Kids and Laurel House became co-located in 2018 to further collaboration efforts. After reading a study on sibling sexual abuse done by researchers in Israel, Mission Kids has partnered with them to research sibling sexual abuse in the United States. Mission Kids provides outreach and education to the community to prevent child abuse from occurring. Mission Kids has been delivering Darkness to Light Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Programs, as well as general community programs on child abuse prevention for over five years. Mission Kids has also provided mandated reporters information on how to respond to disclosures and/or suspicion of abuse through minimal facts questions. 

While Mission Kids started to hire professional staff to provide services, there has always been a core group of volunteers providing assistance with all other facets of Mission Kids such as development, administration and case management. 

Mission Kids collaborates with Creative Health Services, Children's Crisis Treatment Centers, and Silver Springs to ensure trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is available to every child, no matter their ability to pay. They have collaborated with the Montgomery Child Advocacy Project to provide free legal representation for child abuse victims. This exceptional partnership allows children to have their voice heard throughout the criminal and family court systems. In January, Mission Kids raised the funds to begin a program partnering with a mental health provider, Creative Health Services, to have a clinician on-site to begin to solve the unmet needs in the community. Lastly, Mission Kids has been partnering with Victim Services of Montgomery County to develop written protocols, as well as implement best practices to responding to adult victims with cognitive disabilities.

Mission Kids' philosophy is to promote healing and justice for child abuse victims. On the local level, Mission Kids ensures that the voice of child abuse victims is heard through the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign. Mission Kids has partnered with local pro-bono marketing/press relations companies to ensure issues of child abuse are featured on the local media on a regular basis. On the state level, Mission Kids has been proactive to ensure that all communities have the support and resources to respond to child abuse victims in a trauma informed approach. On the national level, Mission Kids has been involved with advocacy regarding federal legislation, and served on a national committee to respond to commercial sexual exploitation of children. On the international level, Mission Kids has presented at international conferences on child abuse response in Hague and Prague. 

Award Presentation

 Mission Kids was presented the award on October 4th, during a press conference held at the Montgomery County Courthouse.   

On behalf of victims of crime and the victim services field, we thank you, Mission Kids, for your innovation, collaboration, and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.