Expansion At Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center | #childabuse | #children | #kids

Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center (TBCAC) is breaking new ground, both literally and figuratively. The organization established in 2010 to help end child abuse in the region is renovating and expanding its facility, has transitioned its leadership team, and has uncovered some interesting insights about abuse in the region. TBCAC has hired board member Ginger Kadlec (pictured at left) as interim executive director, with predecessor Sue Bolde (at right) now serving as the executive director of the Public Will Campaign to end child sexual abuse. 

The organization is undergoing an expansion of its facility at 2000 Chartwell Drive; the 2,400 square foot addition will feature expanded child forensic interview rooms specially designed for child victims from toddlers to teens, multidisciplinary team consult rooms and separate family waiting rooms. This will enable the organization to work with two alleged child abuse cases at the same time. Space will also be made available for additional TBCAC staff needed to oversee and manage the increase in investigative and counseling services.

The facility will allow both the child, the family and/or reporter as well as the authorities to engage in a setting that is comfortable and secure. For example, the person reporting the issue will be interviewed separately from the child, but a sliding glass door will enable the child to maintain visual contact.

Funding for the expansion came from several private donations, as well as foundation grants including Impact 100, Rotary Charities, Carls Foundation, the Oleson Foundation and the Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation. Construction is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2021.

Bolde left the TBCAC after six years of leading it when the Public Will Campaign to end child sexual abuse moved to a new level. She was working with the campaign while still leading the TBCAC, but eventually had to choose. “The campaign needs 100 percent of my devotion. It was more efficient to have me move (to the campaign) rather than train someone else.”

The position will enable her to continue to work in the same field with a different emphasis, alongside team members from the local community and Michigan State University. Bolde also says the fact Kadlec was able to keep things running without a hitch was a huge benefit. “Ginger was on the board. She has the knowledge and has been a volunteer. She could step in as interim.”

Kadlec had previously led children’s advocacy organizations in Indiana before moving to this area. “I’m trained as a forensic investigator and as a trainer. When my husband and I moved here, I reached out to Sue and said, ‘This is a passion of mine. I’ve got the background … to do this.”

Kadlec says she is strictly an interim while the organization seeks a permanent new leader. “We want someone who wants to continue and grow this,” she says.

The organization’s goal remains the same: To not only treat children and their families where abuse has occurred, but to prevent it, to the point the organization is no longer needed. That’s been the goal from the beginning. “We want to eliminate harm and put ourselves out of business. It’s prevention, not just response,” Bolde says.

The campaign recently completed a survey of social norms for the six-county region; more than 750 families responded. The survey sought to determine how people see themselves in their community, their willingness to talk about sexual abuse, and community awareness of risk factors commonly associated with child sexual abuse (CSA).

Bolde points to two areas she finds particularly compelling. “Many are happy and proud of their communities,” she says, but that feeling is not universal. The survey shows such a sense is higher in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Antrim Counties, but less so in Kalkaska, Wexford, and perhaps surprisingly, in Traverse City.

Bolde says another thing the survey shows is the difference in how the sexes look at social norms. “Men and women approach this issue very differently,” she notes.

While the organization has been dealing with the leadership transition and building expansion, it has also had to weather the effects of the coronavirus. Kadlec says without the benefits of being in school, child abuse has increased. “Teachers and school staff are one of the top reporters (of child abuse). When children are not in school, the likelihood (of abuse) goes up,” says Kadlec.

TBCAC is again welcoming staff and clients in person while observing medical protocols, but has expanded its use of online communication. “We can do a lot of work remotely. Sometimes it’s even more efficient,” says Bolde. “But for the children it’s always best face to face.”

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