MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center (MCCAC) appears to have served more families who have been affected by abuse.

As part of a release of service statistics for 2023, the MCCAC announced that they served 629 clients throughout the year and conducted twice the number of forensic interviews in comparison to 2022. The clients they served consisted of children and parents of all ages who experienced abuse that ranged from drug endangerment to sexual abuse.

“We count children and their family members, so we served 629 children and their family members last year,” said MCCAC Director of Awareness and Development Taylor Shultz. “We conducted 246 forensics interviews last year, and that’s over double of 2022,” she said.

In the report, the MCCAC mentioned that of the clients who were children, approximately forty-four percent of them were aged 7–12 years old. Close to half of the children served were there due to allegations of sexual abuse, and eleven percent were from allegations of drug endangerment. Eighty-five percent of the alleged offenders were someone they knew, and each of the cases is based on reports from child protective services or local law enforcement.

“Last year, 45 percent of our forensic interviews at the center were because of allegations of sexual abuse,” said Shultz of the types of cases the MCCAC received in 2023. “Neglect also accounts for a lot of our cases that come through our center, and then criminal substance use can also kind of play a role in that effect,” she said.

The MCCAC also reported that they provided 5,807 family advocacy services in 2023, with 1,195 therapy sessions hosted for clients. To help provide a safe environment for the children in each case, child protection, criminal justice, and child treatment professionals work together to investigate abuse, hold offenders accountable, and assist children through the strenuous process. That includes helping children get through courtroom testimonies if necessary and recommending services.

“Our family advocates provide services to the whole family, whether that’s connecting them with community resources for food or a different type of resource,” Shultz said on WAJR’s Talk of the Town. “All the way to supporting them in court during their hearing,” she said.

These efforts by the MCCAC to provide safety and security to children and families who are victims of abuse. This includes a multidisciplinary approach with trauma-informed services provided by child-care professionals from across the county. With forensic interviews doubling over the course of a one-year period, Shultz views it as a prime example of what makes the MCCAC such an important asset to the community.

“The biggest takeaway from this data is that every community needs a child advocacy center,” said Shultz. “So it’s important to support the work that we do, whether it’s your child who needs these services or if it’s their best friend, it’s beneficial for the whole community to have,” he said.