For most people, April 4-7 was just the greater portion of a week like any other week. However, my colleagues, me, and 1200 others, it was the week for the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s 32nd International Symposium on Child Abuse. I’ve heard the saying before: Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life. After watching my colleagues work harder than any people I’ve seen over the last few weeks and, specifically, the last four days, I am not sure I entirely agree with the “not working” part. But the love is absolutely there. And the lives children all over the world will continue to be changed as a result.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center began in a small town in North Alabama in 1985, the passion and dream of a representative named “Bud” Cramer and several others. You see, prior to the CAC model, children who had already suffered trauma were asked to relive that trauma 4 or 5 times with 4 or 5 different people in 4 or 5 different settings before a case ever reached the courtroom. And because every participant in the process was basically blind to the others, it was hard to help the children or their families in any cohesive way. Mr. Cramer decided that someone needed to do better for our kids, so he became that someone, challenging the idea that one person cannot change the world.
Thirty years ago the NCAC settled into a small house in downtown Huntsville, and they began helping children by working together as agencies, providing services to help children deal with the trauma, and changing the way we talk to children about what has happened to them. I do not have any absolutely certain statistics regarding how many children have been helped by the now over 900 CAC’s throughout the country and world, but I know that in 2015 alone, 311,688 children were served in CAC’s across the United States.
So back to this week…I watched in amazement as over 1200 people came through the doors of the Von Braun Civic Center to register for and attend the Symposium. They were social workers, law enforcement officers, child service workers, medical professionals, prosecutors, and medical professionals. I observed my colleagues packing, unpacking, setting up, greeting, assisting, attending workshops, and presenting workshops. That first morning attendees lined up for assistance with the very robust App designed specifically for our Symposium by members of the training department. I cuddled with Bonnie, a therapy dog who is trained to calm and assist children who walk into a CAC. I learned about how to protect my own kids, and my admiration grew for the people who spend every day doing the same thing for ALL children.
Yesterday I drove home after helping unload a moving truck full of boxes and technology (and all sorts of other items) and settled into the sofa, still chattering about all I had seen and heard. I told a coworker this morning that at 8:00 I crawled into bed and turned on the Investigation Discovery channel, and I do not even remember how the show I was watching began.
I’m honored to have been a very small part of this. I’m blessed in that I get to be a small part of the NCAC every day. And I am thankful that there are dedicated people all over the world who spend their lives standing up for children.