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Newaygo, Mecosta, Osceola, and Lake counties to get new children's advocacy center

Posted at 4:14 PM, Nov 17, 2021

WHITE CLOUD, Mich. — Two organizations will exist under the same roof in order to better provide services for children who are victims of abuse.

The address is 601 N Evergreen Drive in White Cloud. Right off M-37, it's a more central location for the Open Arms Child Advocacy Center.

Amy Taylor runs the Open Arms Child Advocacy Center. They service four counties for forensic interviews: Newaygo, Osceola, Mecosta and Lake.

“We do mostly sexual assault or severe physical abuse,” Taylor said.

But their current location in Big Rapids is just too small. The need for a place to grow into is rising.

“We did about 144 last year. This year, we’ve done 190 already,” Taylor said.

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That's where Tara Nelson comes into the picture. She runs a preventative program in Newaygo County, mostly working in area schools to discuss body safety.

Tara reached out to Amy because her organization is the next step in the process after abuse is identified. The two organizations teamed up to pool resources under one roof. Before the building on Evergreen, Tara was working out of a pole barn.

“I set a goal. I said, within five years, we’re going to have these services right here in Newaygo County,” Executive Director of the Newaygo County Center for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Taylor Nelson said.

Before Amy Taylor set up her location in Big Rapids in 2018, families would have to drive quite a ways for services, to areas like Muskegon or Grand Rapids. Some even went as far as Traverse City. But after the forensic interview was conducted, services in the families' hometowns were scarce.

“They don’t set up services in your area. It makes it very difficult for families who have just gone through a trauma,” Taylor said.

That's why this place is so necessary. There are big plans to expand services, but for starters it'll be a safe place for forensic interviews and services for kids. They want to create a more welcoming environment, and provide services similar to those in Kent or Ottawa counties, but closer to the people they serve.

“Our families need it. Our children need it. They are our future. They are everything. They’re such a precious gift. They need people that can stand up and advocate for them,” Nelson said.

RELATED: Child advocate groups to unveil new center to fight abuse in 4 counties