Western PA Cares for Kids Earns Accreditation by National Children’s Alliance

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – A dream to treat the victims of child abuse was one Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett had many years ago.

Today, his dream, along with many others, has been realized in a way many never imagined.

Tuesday evening, many that have worked hard since 2004 to make Burkett’s dream a reality gathered at Western PA Cares For Kids to share the experience as they celebrate the center’s accreditation by the National Children’s Alliance.

“Every time I walk through the doors of this place, I almost have to pinch myself to be sure that I’m not dreaming,” Burkett said. “What began as merely a dream in my heart that one day that we, in the criminal justice system, would be able to treat abused children with the love and compassion that they so dearly need and lessen the trauma of their investigations, has now become a wonderful reality.”

“We wondered, where would the money come from, how would we do it, does anybody care?” Burkett said.

“I am still amazed at what has happened here because of the passion and hard work of Pat Berger, our Executive Director, and our outstanding Board of Directors.”

Pat Berger-Western PA Cares For Kids Center

(Pictured above: Pat Berger, Western PA Cares For Kids Center Executive Director.)

“Our facility is absolutely top-notch. We provide a warm, friendly environment where children can feel more comfortable as they tell their sad stories of abuse,” Burkett said. “Because of our state-of-the-art equipment, they only have to tell this story once, and all the key agencies get to hear it at the same time as well as receive recorded copies of the interviews.”

“The children didn’t have to relive their abuse time after time when telling it to investigators and the police were set free to be investigators. The agencies coordinated their efforts and, for the first time, consistently worked together.”

“We also provide a private, child-friendly and comfortable environment where they can receive forensic and medical exams.”

CARES, a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) near Brookville, that serves Jefferson, Clarion and Forest Counties, has been awarded accreditation by the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) following an extensive application and site review process.

As the accrediting agency for CACs across the country, NCA awards various levels of accreditation and membership.

Accreditation is the highest level of membership with NCA and denotes excellence in service provision.

“Western PA CARES for Kids is to be commended for its excellent work serving victims of child abuse,” remarked Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of National Children’s Alliance.

CARES began in 2008 in a donated space at Brookville Behavioral Health and moved to its current location in 2011.

It serves Jefferson, Clarion, and Forest counties’ children who have alleged abuse and provide forensic interviews, victim advocacy, medical evaluations, case review, case tracking, and referrals for counseling and therapy.

CARES has seen more than 760 children for allegations of abuse since our beginning in May of 2008.

CARES Executive Director and Forensic Interviewer Pat Berger states, “This is the realization of yet another dream we have had at CARES.  Meeting the NCA’s high standards is a goal of every child advocacy center across America, but it is no easy task.”

“For the past five years, myself, our Board of Directors, and our Multi-Disciplinary Team have been working diligently to achieve these lofty goals. CARES has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that a rural community can have a CAC that meets the highest of standards. I am so very pleased to make this announcement.”

For more information about Western PA CARES for Kids Inc., visit www.carescac.org.

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