The Center for Children, which is an advocate for children who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, extreme physical abuse or who have witnessed a violent crime, does amazing work to restore the health, happiness and wholeness to thousands of local children, but it chooses to maintain a low profile due to the sensitive nature of its work.
“Many people do not know about us or the great work that we do for the community due to the confidentiality of our work,” said Mistalynn Meyeraan, executive director of the Center for Children. “If you have not been through child abuse, you likely don’t know us. We’re trying to change that.”
The center offers a variety of services, from initial forensic medical exams by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to neutral, fact-finding forensic interviewing, to counseling, advocacy, referrals, coordination of efforts with law enforcement, Child Protective Services and other professional services, education and training.
“When we help kids heal, they heal; it can change their life’s path,” Meyeraan said. “We can help them break the cycle of abuse and living with untreated trauma.”
The center has been working in the Grand Valley since 1997, and there are thousands of happy, well-adjusted adults here in the Grand Valley who are contributing to the community thanks to its efforts.
Nicole Romero is one of them, and she’s passionate about the mission of the Center.
“I am literally thankful every day,” she said. “I recognize that I wouldn’t have the life I have now without them. If it cost anything, I wouldn’t have been able to go. If I couldn’t go, I wouldn’t have the life I have now. They saved me.”
When Romero first came into contact with the Center, she was an older teenager who was suicidal, engaging in risky behaviors and making choices that were detrimental to her physical and mental health as a result of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
Two years of counseling at the Center was the lifeline she needed.
“The counselor helped me learn to make healthy choices about myself, my environment and my relationships,” Romero said.
Romero owns her own business, Electrolysis by Nicole, and is happily married, with a blended family of six children. She knows without a doubt that the Center changed her life, and she isn’t alone. Joan Mulleady has been the clinical program director at the center for eight years, and also worked for many years as a contract therapist. She often has adults who received counseling at the Center as children reach out to her.
“The feedback has consistently been that the services they received at the Center made a profound impact on their lives,” Mulleady said. “It allowed them to heal from the trauma. They’re healthy and productive; they’re working families with children.”
All services provided at the Center are free, and the Center relies on donations from the community as well as grants. This year, COVID-19 canceled many of its annual fundraising activities, but the pandemic didn’t cancel the needs for its services. Due to COVID restrictions, however, the Center has had to get innovative in developing new programs and methods of reaching out to the children and families it serves.
“We have introduced tele-health tool kits that we developed a few weeks ago,” Meyeraan said. The purpose of the tool kit is to help children engage with their therapist, even if they’re receiving online therapy instead of in-person therapy.
December 8 is Colorado Gives Day, and the Center hopes that members of the community will continue to be generous with their financial support. Because it’s Colorado Gives Day, there are matching incentive funds if people choose to make their donation on Dec. 8. The Center is proud to be a part of Grand Valley Gives, which supports all local non-profits and has a mission of encouraging community members to give where you live.
A community is only as healthy as the children who will grow up to lead it. Donating generously to the Center for Children won’t just benefit some child far away that the donor may never be connected to, but to future teachers, healthcare workers, business owners, technicians, neighbors and friends right here in the Grand Valley.