ChildSafe Center plans late summer opening

ChildSafe board member Trae Vickers, counselor Monica Johns and ChildSafe Executive Director Kelly Bober stand on the porch of the new ChildSafe Center in Woodstock. Briahnna Brown/Daily

WOODSTOCK — For families in Shenandoah County, access to child abuse treatment centers has been a problem, with many unable to afford making regular trips to the ChildSafe Center in Winchester, leaving their children without the counseling they need.

The new satellite center in Woodstock aims to solve that problem.

Kelly Bober, executive director of ChildSafe, said the satellite center at 316 S. Main St. has much more of a “country cottage” look than than the urban warehouse appearance of ChildSafe’s Winchester location. She said the Woodstock location is perfect for area families and children who would be much more comfortable in it than in a building like the one in Winchester.

“When a family and a child comes, it feels like a home and it doesn’t feel like an investigative agency,” Bober said. “We want it to feel welcoming.”

ChildSafe Center is one of 15 child advocacy centers in Virginia that provide child-friendly environments for abuse victims to talk to someone about their stories.  Bober explained they generally serve three main functions: coordinate a team response to the outcry of abuse, the forensic interview to gather evidence of the abuse, and mental health counseling for the victims.

The new satellite location for the ChildSafe Center in Woodstock was chosen because of its home-like appearance. Briahnna Brown/Daily

The center received a $30,000 donation in the fall from a benefit event that Advance Home Care and Valley Health’s Valley Home Care held, and the team has been working since then to secure a satellite location in Shenandoah County.

ChildSafe partnered with Monica Johns, a licensed professional counselor who already provides therapy services out of that space, which seemed like a “natural” transition, Bober said. She said that this new location should help area families overcome the distance barrier.

Trae Vickers, finance committee board member for the ChildSafe Center, said they are excited to see it coming to fruition.

“The fact that [families] won’t have to drive 45 minutes to Winchester and be able to get the same services here — it’s a monumental thing for our agency to be able to do that,” Vickers added.”

New Market Police Chief Chris Rinker approached Bober with the idea to open up a satellite center somewhere in Shenandoah County to make it more accessible. He said he looks forward to the new satellite location in Woodstock, noting that it will be much more convenient to escort victims to.

“This is huge for Shenandoah County, and huge for Shenandoah law enforcement agencies,” Rinker said. “Right now, our staff will go to Winchester with the victim, and now we can stay within Shenandoah County.”

The center will heavily rely on a multidisciplinary team model, which brings area professionals together to share information with each other about how to holistically look at each case and find ways to best help victims and their families. This team includes representatives from area law enforcement agencies, the Commonwealth’s Attorney office, the Department of Social Services and ChildSafe.

“Every new child abuse case that comes in is cross-reported to all those agencies so that we all know a new complaint has come in and there’s a new child in need,” Bober said, noting that the group comes together to look at each case in terms of “family success needs.”

Even though the new satellite location has a home, Bober said that they still have a ways to go to furnish and decorate the space so they can be able to provide the treatment and investigative services the child abuse victims will need.

Bober added that they are accepting public donations for the “Shenandoah Project,” which can be done through a written check to the center or through the PayPal option on their website, www.childsafecenter.com. She also said that they are hoping to host a grand opening event at the end of the summer, but they are still very early in the planning stages of it.

“We haven’t even planned what we want that to look like,” Bober said. “We definitely want the community to know we’re here and to welcome us and to know it’s accessible to them if they need it.”