The Child Advocacy Center movement came to Missouri in the mid 1990’s out of the necessity to make the social and criminal justice systems respond better to the needs of children and families whose lives had been devastated by sexual abuse.
Accredited by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-focused, facility-based program where representatives from many disciplines meet to discuss and make decisions about the investigation, prosecution, intervention and treatment of child abuse cases. Child Advocacy Centers are community-based programs that operate with a combination of public and private funding, providing a wide range of services in support of seriously abused children, their families and the professionals who serve them.
In 1999, the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers (now known as Missouri Kidsfirst) achieved full status as a Chapter of the National Children’s Alliance (NCA). Missouri KidsFirst has continued to grow as the Child Advocacy Centers in Missouri continue to serve the State’s most seriously abused children. Today there are 22 nationally accredited (NCA) Child Advocacy Centers serving fifteen regions across the state and numerous satellite locations serving all Missouri’s counties.
In 2004, the Executive Directors of the fifteen regional Child Advocacy Center came together to create a formal infrastructure for the coordination and development of child advocacy centers, training, and assuring long-term sustainability of the child advocacy movement in Missouri. Consequentially, with support from the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers was officially formed and a statewide office was created in Jefferson City. At that time, the Network’s Board of Directors was made up of the Executive Directors of the fifteen regional Child Advocacy Centers.
In 2005, The Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers was incorporated as a 501(C)3 organization doing business as Missouri KidsFirst. Since that time the work of the Network has led to a rather dramatic growth in the numbers of youth served in Missouri and an expansion of the advocacy efforts of the organization.
As the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers efforts grew and relationships developed with other leaders in Missouri’s child abuse prevention and intervention initiatives the organization leadership role in Missouri expanded. In 2006 and 2007, the Board of the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers voted to reorganize and transition to a new Board structure with an expanded mission and focus. This led to a new name for the organization, Missouri Kidsfirst. The Network’s Board of Directors stepped aside and the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers became a program of Missouri KidsFirst. During this time, Missouri Kidsfirst took on two additional programs.
In 2008, funding for the SAFE-CARE resource center program was provided by a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, contract no.C308087001. Missouri KidsFirst established medical resource centers to provide training and support to medical professionals working with children who were suspected victims of child maltreatment. Missouri Child Advocacy Center’s provide access to qualified trained SAFE-CARE providers. Quality SAFE-CARE evaluations are an integral part of the response to child maltreatment.
Also in 2008, Missouri KidsFirst was adopted as a provisional chapter of Prevention Child Abuse America. Prevent Child Abuse Missouri (PCAM) believes that child abuse and neglect is preventable. PCAM works with community partners to promote and implement prevention efforts at both the state and local levels. PCAM is a program of Missouri KidsFirst.
Missouri KidsFirst’s history demonstrates the organization’s belief that child abuse is a community problem, and for that reason community involvement is essential to its resolution. Missouri KidsFirst’s ardent commitment to ending child abuse has manifested itself in the organization steadfast growth as one of Missouri’s leaders on the crisis of child abuse and neglect.