The Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center will host its second annual "It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play" fundraiser Saturday at the Finney County 4-H building.
The event, which starts at 6 p.m., will feature dinner, a performance of the radio play, silent and live auctions and a presentation about the work the advocacy center does. And as WKCAC staff note, "it's all for the kids."
"I specifically do it for the kids, because if they can't protect themselves, if their parents can't protect them, then who can?" said Layla Mumgaard, a child and family advocate and therapist at the Garden City Child Advocacy Center.
WKCAC has been providing services to children and families in western Kansas since 2004. The advocacy center covers 33 counties, offering services at six permanent locations and through a mobile unit designed to reach children and families in more rural areas.
Mumgaard said child and family advocates are those people who advocate for the safety of children and for their healing from the trauma of abuse. Advocacy centers offer therapy services, forensic interviewing and a medical unit. If the advocacy center can't provide the support a child needs, it will try to connect that child and their family with additional resources in the community.
WKCAC also works with other agencies such as law enforcement, the Kansas Department for Children and Families and county attorneys.
"We work as a multi-disciplinary team," Mumgaard said. "When the report of child abuse comes in, either to DCF or law enforcement, then they call us in to help provide that advocacy and that forensic interview and that therapy."
Since WKCAC is a nonprofit agency, services provided to children are at no cost to their families or the agencies that refer them.
"It's to protect children," said Melissa Fulton, a forensic interviewer and advocate at the Garden City center. "They can't do it themselves. Sometimes what's going on is not related to what's happening in their family at all, but a lot of times it is. And if they are living in a nonsupportive environment, they've got to have somebody."
According to statistics provided by the child advocacy center, 98% of the time, the child being abused will know the perpetrator. And 30% to 40% of children experiencing abuse are abused by family members.
"It's not the stranger danger that jumps out of the bush," Mumgaard said. "It's someone they know."
She said the highest form of abuse they see, more than 80%, is sexual abuse. Advocates also see children who experience physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse or who are victims or witnesses to a violent crime.
"It for sure takes a village to protect these kids," Mumgaard said. "We do a lot of mandatory reporting training for the schools and for others such as law enforcement or the hospital, and it starts with them, those who report."
According to Ashley Martinez, an advocate and interviewer at the Garden City center, another important aspect of their work is building awareness among community members.
"It's something that shouldn't be just swept under the rug," Martinez said. "We need to be there for the kids and be able to talk about it."
In 2018, WKCAC staff members interviewed 519 kids throughout the 33 counties the organization serves. During the 2019 fiscal year, which runs June 2018 to June 2019, Finney County alone served 192 children.
Money from Saturday's fundraiser will be put back into operations here in Finney County, helping WKCAC fulfill its vision of ensuring every child has access to trauma-informed services in their community.
"Every kid that comes through that door just pulls at our heart strings," Mumgaard said. "We drop everything we have to try and figure out how to work as a team with law enforcement, DCF and the county attorneys to provide the best services for them and give them a better chance at life."