The Children’s Advocacy Center of East Central Missouri (CAC), which serves hundreds of child abuse victims and their families, has lost its lease at the Sullivan office.

On Wednesday, July 24, the CAC will have to move from its current location of 12 years and temporarily operate from the De Soto CAC office.

A tentative location has been identified in Union, however, it needs extensive renovation. The CAC is seeking assistance for this purpose. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted to offset the cost of moving and renovations.

The CAC depends solely on funding from grants, fund-raisers and donations from the community.

The CAC was founded in 1999, as a division of Community Treatment Inc. (COMTREA).

Dr. Stephen F. Huss, president and CEO of COMTREA, said the mission of the CAC is “to stop child abuse and protect children through a coordinated community-based response.”

This mission is accomplished by working closely with multidisciplinary team members from children’s division, law enforcement, the juvenile office and the prosecuting attorney’s office.

The CAC provides services to a region of 10 counties, including Franklin, Jefferson, Crawford, Gasconade, Osage, Washington, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Madison and Iron.

In 2012, the CAC served 438 children and their families. Of that total, 183 of those children were served at the Franklin County location with 100 of the children being from Franklin County.

The CAC provides fact-finding forensic interviews in a child-friendly setting, medical exams, family advocacy for consumers and prevention programs for the community.

At the CAC, children can tell their story in a comfortable, friendly setting, and begin the healing process for themselves, their families and the community as a whole.

Child victims are referred to the CAC by Children’s Division or law enforcement where upon arrival the child and their family are guided through the process by a Family Advocate.

A forensic interview of the child is then conducted by a trained professional. The interview is observed by the multidisciplinary team and recorded for reference ensuring that the child will not have to tell the painful story multiple times.

Medical and mental health resources also are provided to the family. The Franklin County office provides a school-based prevention program to school districts in the county.

“For many years child sexual abuse has plagued our society, with one in four girls, and one in six boys becoming victims before the age of 18,” said Cindy Vessell, CAC executive director. “It has been a secret affliction kept in the dark by shame and disregard. We all pay the price in dealing with the effects on victims in our community.

“Child sexual abuse costs U.S. taxpayers $35 billion annually,” she noted. “In recent years light has been shone on this detrimental offense and its destructive effects on victims and society in hopes to end this epidemic.”

Donations may be mailed to Child Advocacy Center of East Central Missouri, c/o of Wendy Harris, 227 Main St., Festus, MO 63028.