The need for the Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center increases every year.
Director Kelli Wacker said child abuse and sexual assault services are more needed, particularly with the rise of digital communications.
“Each year we serve more and more victims, unfortunately,” she said. “The major trend we’ve seen is an increase in internet and social media victimization. We’ve seen a great deal of that in the adolescent age range.”
To address this growing issue, the center has a prevention specialist who works in communities providing education to help spread awareness to youths, as well as those who work with youths, she said.
The Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center is one of seven in Nebraska that provides child abuse and sexual assault services to child and adult victims. It has a 24-county service area in Northeast and North Central Nebraska.
“There’s no one else in the area we serve that provides the same services we do — child sexual assault forensic exams, rape kits for children,” she said. “There are no other service providers or emergency rooms who can see young children for that sort of abuse. We have specialized medical staff and medical equipment to provide that service.”
Last year it served 300 victims with a staff of five full-time members and two part-time medical staffers. It provides services for free, and support from United Way plays a large role in making that possible, Wacker said.
“Within our agency we don’t charge a fee for the services we provide,” she said. “Children and families who walk through our door are going through a difficult situation, typically something quite traumatic. We don’t want to burden them with financial struggles or strains.
“The United Way helps us provide services without passing on any sort of fee.”
She said it would be difficult for the center to continue providing services without the United Way supporting 10% of its budget.
“It does go to direct services for victims,” she said. “We do rely on it to provide our services free of charge.”
While the Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center addresses difficult topics, Wacker enjoys knowing that she’s made a difference in the lives of victims and families who seek its services.
“Working with them one-on-one is very humbling, and while it’s very difficult work we do, we know it’s also very important and we know that we are helping people,” she said. “We’re helping children and families — that’s a really wonderful feeling.”
Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center Q&A
Director: Kelli Wacker
What services does your agency provide, and who generally does it serve? The Northeast Nebraska Child Advocacy Center (NENCAC) provides hope and healing to victims of child abuse. Utilizing a joint investigative team approach, child advocacy centers are facility-based community partnerships dedicated to pursuing the truth in child abuse investigations. Professionals from child and family services, law enforcement, prosecution, victim advocacy services, and medical and mental health communities work as a team to investigate and intervene in cases of suspected child abuse and sexual assault. Attention to the needs and abilities of children is the hallmark of our center. NENCAC serves 24 counties with a population over 250,000 people.
In what way does the United Way assist you? United Way funding enables our center to provide services to child and adult victims of abuse at no cost to them. The services we provide offer support, hope and healing to the victims affected by these horrendous crimes, as well as their families.
What percentage of your budget does the United Way fund? The Norfolk United Way funds approximately 10% of NENCAC’s budget.
What are some new or ongoing needs that your agency is facing? Our need for United Way funding continues to increase. Each year, we serve an increasing number of victims and their non-offending family members. The NENCAC is a not-for-profit organization that falls under the 501(c)3 of Faith Regional Health Services (FRHS). FRHS supports our mission and believes in providing high-quality services to victims in our community. Services are offered to all victims, regardless of ability to pay. Families seen in our center will never be billed for hospital cost of care.
If your agency did not receive United Way funds, how would it impact your ability to serve others? United Way support allows our center the ability to provide quality services to the families we serve with no charge to them. Without community support, it would be difficult to provide services to the increased volume of families we serve each year.
Share a brief anecdote about how your agency has had an impact on the community as a whole or an individual who has been served: The following is a testimonial from a family who visited NENCAC.
“When your child discloses they have been abused by someone, your heart drops, but when they disclose that the person who violated them is a trusted family member, your world takes a drastic turn.
“When initially asked to come to NENCAC, we were very hesitant, as we had never heard of it before. As any concerned parent would be, we were very anxious about the process when we arrived. We had many questions for the staff, but their calm and friendly attitudes really helped us to feel at ease. Needless to say, after leaving NENCAC, the wounds could begin to heal, but only with their help.
“After our first meeting, the staff stayed in contact with our family to ensure we didn’t need anything else. Despite the difficult time our family was going through, our visit to NENCAC was one positive that came from our negative situation.