JAY, Okla. — A new state-of-the-art $1 million child advocacy center will provide additional services to abused and neglected children in Delaware County.
More than 100 leaders from all across Delaware County and law enforcement agencies gathered on Tuesday north of Jay for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Delaware County Children’s Special Advocacy Network building.
The foundation of the fight against child abuse in Delaware County started in 1994 after former District Judge Barry Denney, then a prosecutor, saw frightened children thrown into the court system.
Previously Denney said his most memorable and impactful case involved prosecuting the rape case of a 10-year-old victim.
The child became so upset when being cross-examined that she cried so hard she threw up, he said.
That was the turning point for Denney.
DCCSAN provides forensic interviewing, counseling, court preparation, and crisis intervention for sexually and physically abused children or children that are victims of neglect.
The advocates began in a six-room former nursing center and eventually moved into a decades-old former funeral home, plagued with a leaky roof, rotting floor and plumbing issues, said Josh Bishop, DCCSAN board member.
“DCCSAN taught me that investigating crimes against children isn’t about the officer, or the lawyers, or the caseworkers,” Bishop said. “It is always about letting the children tell their story.”
The staff wraps their arms around the children and their families and helps them navigate the court system, therapy and any community resources they might need, he said.
“I have seen so many children come into DCCSAN as victims and leave as survivors,” Bishop said.
In those early years there were only three child advocacy centers in the state, said Jill McAbee, DCCSAN executive director.
“It’s not that we have more child sexual or physical abuse cases than other places,” McAbee said. “We are going after the problem and that exposes the situation.”
In 2021, DCCSAN supported more than 3,700 families affected by sexual, physical abuse, drug endangerment and witness to domestic violence. The agency also conducted 173 forensic interviews and 1,098 counseling interviews.
“One in 10 children in the country will be sexually abused before age 18,” McAbee said. “Statistics tell us that four children in the country die each day as a result of abuse.”
Between July 2020 and June 2021, there were 861 child abuse reports received by authorities for Delaware County, according to a Department of Human Services report. Of those cases, 45 percent were accepted for investigation.
You can read the report here.
Ottawa County received 863 cases and accepted 51 percent of those cases while Craig County received 293 reports and accepted 50 percent of the cases for investigation, according to the report.
Delaware County has prosecutors, attorneys, deputies, police officers, and others who want to see justice for the county’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens, McAbee said.