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Today is July 12, 2020

One loud voice

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi work to drive out child abuse by raising awareness through its new car tag.

By Sandra M. Buckley

One loud voice

Since 1990, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi (CACM) has been playing a vital role in helping children who are victims of abuse and also championing prevention. An accredited chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, it is the member organization of Mississippi’s 11 local Children’s Advocacy Centers located across the state.

All 11 centers operate under one important mission, which is “to provide hope and healing to children that have been severely abused or neglected, witnessed homicide or have been trafficked,” said Karla Steckler Tye, CACM executive director.

CACM, headquartered in Biloxi, serves as an umbrella organization that is uniquely structured as a collaborative network of professionals and services. Ultimately, it aims to provide young victims a safe, compassionate environment and a path towards recovery as well as seek justice for those responsible.

“By bringing together many disciplines, including law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental and/or medical health, victim advocacy and child advocacy, we work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases,” Tye explained.

Additionally, streamlining the processing of each case in a timely, efficient and sensitive manner for victims is core to CACM’s charge. “Our goal,” she added, “is always to put the needs of the child first.”

Statistics from 2019 hold that 6,196 of Mississippi’s children were seen at one of the 11 centers. Of these children, 2,498 received medical exam referrals, 3,695 received a forensic interview and 1,783 either received or were referred to counseling.

One way in which CACM is raising both awareness and funds is through a new specialty car tag available to Mississippi drivers. The tag’s colorful design features two small handprints with the wording, “I Protect Children.”

“To us, the handprints remind you of the innocence of children,” Tye shared. “It reminds you that children should be living healthy and happy lives, but some children are deprived of this opportunity due to abuse and neglect. And, ‘I Protect Children’ is asking every person in Mississippi to take action. Every citizen has a role in protecting children.”

Tye is grateful that the consumer response to the new car tags has been so positive. “It makes me proud that Mississippi is taking a stance on this issue,” she said. “It’s a great way to have an awareness campaign every day in Mississippi and to remind others as Mississippians are traveling across the country.”

A motto CACM incorporates into its everyday mission is “One Loud Voice.” “Seeing professionals all over the state collaborate to help our most vulnerable citizens heal from abuse is inspiring,” Tye said. “These children’s lives have forever been changed by these traumatic events; but because of the tireless efforts by forensic interviewers, therapists, investigators, prosecutors, physicians and social workers to seek justice and ensure healing for these children, they have an opportunity to be happy, healthy adults.”

While every day for CACM is dedicated to preventing child abuse, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“April is the designated awareness month,” added Tye, “but the car tag is a constant reminder that child abuse exists in Mississippi. Help child victims of abuse and neglect obtain justice, hope and healing. Take action by supporting your local Children’s Advocacy Center through volunteering, donating or purchasing a car tag.” 


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