Children’s Advocacy Network honors 25 years
Founded in 1995 as Rapides Children’s Advocacy Center
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A Central Louisiana non-profit has been working in the community since 1995. The Children’s Advocacy Network or CAN, formerly the Rapides Children’s Advocacy Center or RCAC, is a coalition of people who serve an innocent group, abused or neglected children. At the Children’s Advocacy Center, they’ve started the #weneedyounow campaign to raise awareness about the need for community members to become champions of change.
This September they’re celebrating 25 years of fighting against child abuse and neglect in Cenla. “I just had no idea that the level of abuse and neglect existed here,” State Representative Mike Johnson said. Before becoming a state representative, Johnson was an attorney.
"It laid a heavy burden upon me,” Johnson recalled. In 1995 a judge asked him to represent a child in court. Johnson is the founding president of the RCAC. After representing the first child, which Johnson explained happened by chance, a week later, another juvenile judge asked him for help. "It was the idea of the advocacy center,” He said. Previously, three agencies would interview the child back-to-back. The CAN wanted to improve the victim interview process. “Actually, the system was victimizing the children who were already victims,” Johnson explained.
The network grew into an umbrella organization, and the current Children’s Advocacy Center Director Ashley Rubin said, “The support has always been there from Cenla.” Today the network serves seven parishes including Rapides, Avoyelles, Lasalle, Catahoula, Concordia, Winn, and Grant as work continues to heal traumatized children.
“To say that we have grown a great deal in 25 years to where now we’re a network, and we have three programs,” Rubin said. “The therapy program, which is trauma focused, we have CASA and CAC. So, it’s just a real great accomplishment it’s something to be very very proud of.”
Despite the pandemic, a natural disaster, and other issues they’re not letting anything stop their mission. “The hope is to eradicate child abuse,” Rubin said. Johnson echoed this, he said, “It doesn’t matter if it was 25 years ago or now, our most importance resource in this community and any community are our children.” Every donation directly supports a child’s well-being, according to Johnson, “Children are still being neglected, children are unfortunately still being abused.”
Advocates can’t do it alone, they explained it takes community help to make a difference.
Johnson’s message to Central Louisiana, “Those who were here then, to renew that commitment and for new folks to realize that the problem is real the solution is here and that we can all contribute in one way or another to change a life and protect a child.”
Rubin reflected, “This is allowing me to do what I love and us as an agency to do what we love every day. And it also is affording children a chance to have a whole life and a chance to be healed from those hurts and traumas and provide services for those families so they can help those children as well.”
“It’s easy to lead a parade when you have a good cause and you have a solution, and you have a good people, and we had all of those things here in Rapides Parish 25 years ago and obviously we still do,” Johnson explained. “I’m truly grateful for those who did what they did 25 years ago and I’m looking forward to another 25,” Rubin said.
The children’s advocacy network would like to thank all sponsors, donors, and volunteers. Helping CAN helps save a child’s life. The coronavirus pandemic put their annual fundraising events on hold. They’re holding a silent auction until 10 p.m. on Sunday Sept. 27.
Tammi Salazar is the Children’s Advocacy Center Secretary said all donations will help.
“I keep telling all my friends, is that if you don’t win your item you can still be a champion and donate to one of these children, because even though it feels like covid has shut down the world it hasn’t shut down child abuse,” Salazar explained.
A CASA volunteer explained the importance of people volunteering for training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate. “If you are out there and you want to volunteer do it,” Lamona Wallace said. “You are the voice of a child you are the champion for that child. And just know that it’s the little things. Things you might not even think of you that can do for that child because it’s healing. You’re empowering them you’re letting them know that tomorrow the sun will come out.”
Will you become a champion for change? Learn more about the Children’s Advocacy Network here.
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