Marlene Beeson just finished grant reporting season at the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center. Her head is swimming with numbers — lots of them.

Marlene Beeson just finished grant reporting season at the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center. Her head is swimming with numbers — lots of them.

For example, the center performed 159 interviews in 2012. Beeson said that's an increase over 2011 — nearly every number she has is an increase. And behind every number there are children and families.
"It takes courage for a child to come in and talk about what happened to them," Beeson said. "They know it will be hard on the family."

The center now provides services to children in Harvey, McPherson and Marion counties.

The center helped with more than 150 cases in 2012 — 121 of those were sexual abuse cases, 41 cases contained physical abuse and in 14 of those cases children witnessed violence. Those numbers don't add up when you total the types of abuse — which according to Beeson tells a sad story.

"We are getting more children in that have suffered multiple types of abuse," Beeson said. "That tells me that our cases are up this year, and we are identifying more types of abuse that children are suffering."

The majority of cases coming to the center are referred by local law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families (Formally SRS).

Heart to Heart provides children an interview process designed to prevent children from being re-victimized through the court process. The Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center was established in 2001 by professionals who were involved in abuse investigations.

Last year, 52 forensic interviews were conducted at the McPherson County Heart to Heart office.
Of the 52 children, 37 indicated their abuse happened within McPherson County. Forty-one children reported that the time of the interview they resided in McPherson County.

Tina Golden, the McPherson County victim advocate, has had a lot of very specialized training and she does a good job of advocating for the best interest of the child victims, Beeson said.

Mike Terry of McPherson County is now the board Chairman for Heart to Heart. Other board members from McPherson County include David Page, Robert McClarty and Doug Anderson.

Beeson said the numbers form one county don't tell the true story.

Six cases were for children which can not be placed within a single county — children moved from home to home, county-to-county, due to family issues.

"That is so sad," Beeson said.

She said in most of those cases, parents are divorced. The child could be living with one parent or the other — or grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family — at any given time.

The number of girls reporting abuse out-numbered the number of boys almost 2 to 1. During 2012, there were more children in the 7-12 age group brought into the center for services.

In the majority of cases seen at the center, children were abused by someone identified as "other known person." In other words, not a biological family member. Last year, 28 cases were allegedly the result of abuse by a father, seven the result of alleged abuse by a mother.

Most cases were from family friends, or non-blood relatives.

"It's a dilemma," Beeson said. "We can look on a map and see known offenders, but we can't protect our kids from people we know. … You need to know who kids are with, be suspicious of others who try an get to know you to gain access to your kids. Does it sound paranoid? Yes, it does."

Beeson questions why the numbers continue to rise — if there are more children abused than ever before, of if there is another reason behind the increases.

"Maybe it was always there," Beeson said. "Maybe we are doing a better job of identifying those children and getting those kids the help they need."

She also questions how many more cases the center can take on in the face of budget cuts — and how the center will make up for lost revenue. She said the center will likely have a fund-raiser in McPherson in 2013 — though is unsure what that will be.

She also said she doesn't know who will run that fund-raiser, as her office needs to remain focused on helping the abused.

"In 2010, 2013 was identified as a tough year. We expect more cuts," Beeson said. "But our kids are worth it."

Cristina Janney of the McPherson Sentinel contributed to this story.