Monett Children's Center sees facility improvements
Monett Area Community Foundation, Lions Club offer help
Changes at the Children's Center in Monett have adjusted operations and continue to aid in helping children affected by sexual abuse.
Cassie Meier, child advocate, said the Monett facility has undergone technology changes. Interviews are still conducted in a small, comfortable room, one-on-one with a trained interviewer. Instead of having law enforcement and other specialists watch the interview from the other side of a two-way mirror, viewing is now done from across the hall by a video stream.
Meier noted the change provides a more comfortable setting from the tight quarters in the old room. The system continues to undergo tweaking. Meier said the wall-mounted microphone at times has difficulty picking up the words of children, whose volume levels drop as they describe the more difficult parts of their experience. Some of the viewers also liked personally witnessing the child's movements, noting the camera may not pick up all the nuances that a trained observer might see first-hand.
The team members and case managers meet monthly to review the status of all the cases and their resolutions. Meier noted that the regular review has earned the center good marks in the accreditation assessments.
The old observatory room adjacent to the interview room has become a storeroom. Due to a donation by the Roper Kia dealership in Joplin, a large quantity of toys is now stored in that room.
A new TV, donated by Monettan Frank Rauen, is located in one of two rooms set aside for families. Only one family runs through the interview process at a time. The two rooms are located next to Meier's office across the hall from each other.
The Monett Lions Club has helped to repair a hole in the wall of the second family room, where an angered parent stuck his fist into the wall after learning another family member had molested his child. The Lions purchased a lower cabinet for the safe room, and a lower desk for the examination room, plus a higher, bar stool-style seat for the children to even up the personal contact. The Lions also installed new shelving in the utility closet and painted in the facility.
Meier detailed operations in the brightly-painted nurse practitioner's office, where victims undergo a head-to-toe examination by registered nurse Cathy Ingalls, a women's health nurse practitioner. The colorful sea scene with storybook characters, painted by Cassville High School art students, helps children feel more relaxed when they have to undergo head-to-toe exams. She showed a basket of medical gowns, handmade by a donor, Candy Brown, in all sizes ready for use. Adjacent to the exam room is a shower that at times has served as a decontamination room for children extracted from meth labs. The process involved three scrub downs, Meier said, to remove the toxins. While meth labs appear less frequently and seem more confined these days, Meier said the resource remains available.
The exam room recently received a new computer for its colposcope, the main examination tool.
In the hallway, a clothesline has been strung for hanging artwork created by children, mostly during their visits at the center. One piece hangs on the wall prominently, a skilled painting by a 12-year-old girl who, at an earlier age, had been a client and who later rendered the art in appreciation for services received.
A chalk board in the back of the building bears the inscription, "While we try to teach our children all about Life, our children teach us what Life is all about."
Vickie Dudley, executive director for the Children's Center of the Ozarks, the umbrella organization which oversees four centers, said the Monett office, serving Barry and Lawrence counties, saw 240 children in 2014 and remains one of the most active in the operation. One-third of the budget comes from community support. This year's benefit golf tournament, held at the course in Cassville, raised approximately $25,000. Dudley credited the local board with success in galvanizing bi-county support.
Dudley hoped to continue the service upgrades. She noted the Monett office has Internet access issues that requires seven hours to transfer one file to the main office in Joplin. Donations of $2,500 from the Monett Lions Club and $3,326 from the Monett Area Community Foundation would help make improvements.