Compassion and care for abused and neglected children

The Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center lightens the load for kids who’ve endured trauma

The Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center (NMCAC) is changing the experience for child victims of abuse and neglect—from a “scary and frightening” one to a safer, less distressing encounter.

“Before advocacy centers, children were being interviewed by police officers who are typically trained to deal with adults,” says Becky Yuncker, executive director at NMCAC, based in Roscommon, MI.

Yuncker has a long history of working in child advocacy centers, with more than 25 years in the field. The centers began to grow in popularity in the 1980s and provide direct services in working with law enforcement, prosecutors and child protective services to ensure that investigations involving minors are done in a child-friendly environment.

Conducting child forensic interviews in the aftermath of trauma-inducing events is highly sensitive and must be done with compassion and care—which is exactly why Yuncker founded NMCAC in 2014.

“In five years, it’s just amazing what we have accomplished,” says Yuncker. “We work with our families on whatever needs they have to reduce trauma through prevention, intervention and advocacy.”

NMCAC quickly added services such as mental health counselling and medical exams to its center within two years of opening—on top of the multitude of other resources available to children and families.

“We really are providing all of the services that abused and neglected kids need under one roof.”

This year, Enbridge gave $15,000 to NMCAC in support of its child advocacy efforts as part of our commitment to improving quality of life in communities near our operations and projects. The grant will help fund training, counselling supplies, staff supervision and other essentials.

Yuncker takes particular pride in the follow-up services that NMCAC extends to its families well after a proceeding or case has been “closed.”

One more than one occasion, Yuncker says her team has been told by parents who’ve had to bring their children through the center that they wished the same services were available when they were children themselves and experienced abuse.

Community plays a major role in identifying where help is needed, and approximately 30% of the budget at NMCAC relies on donations to continue providing services at no charge.

“To have partnerships like we do with Enbridge to help sustain ourselves and continue to leverage community relationships is vital to ensure that we are helping all kids in need.” she says.

And when children enter her office exclaiming how happy they are to be there? That’s something “all our staff wants to see,” she says.

“We cannot do this alone. It takes a whole community to make this work.”