Board members, law enforcement, local officials, advocates and service providers celebrated the grand opening of the new Unified Child Advocacy Network (UCAN)office in Hillsboro on Thursday, May 30.
The new office, downtown at 108 E. Wood Street, will provide a safe, confidential, place for child-friendly interviews for children ages 3-18 affected by sexual or physical abuse. UCAN works with a multi-disciplinary team including child protective services, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and mental and medical health care services.
According to UCAN board President Deanna Demuzio, children in Montgomery County in need of those services had been transported to Carlinville before the Hillsboro location opened two weeks ago.
"I'm excited for there to be a facility like this in Hillsboro now," Demuzio said.
According to Chief Deputy Bruce Sanford of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, transporting children out of the county for services is often a problem for impacted families, plus the time involved can drive up manpower hours and overtime costs for law enforcement.
In addition to office space in front and storage space in back, the office space remodeled by skilled volunteers also features a conference room, and a soothing, comfortable interview room with subtle microphones and cameras so interviews with children who may be victims can be recorded.
"Our goal is to have that young child interviewed only one time to not add to the trauma," Sanford said.
UCAN also networks with local counseling agencies in order to provide up to ten free counseling sessions that can help children who have been affected by sexual or physical abuse and neglect, PTSD or other trauma-related conditions, grief, adjustment, social-emotional concerns, school problems, or family matters such as divorce or separation that a child may be struggling with.
UCAN serves the counties of Calhoun, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin and Montgomery with sites in Carlinville, Jerseyville, and now Hillsboro thanks in large part to the new 708 tax.
To contact UCAN, call 618-494-6430 or visit unifiedchildadvocacy.org.