Family Advocacy Network opened a satellite office in Hastings on Saturday to help protect abused children by enhancing law enforcement efforts to prosecute abusers.
The nationally accredited child advocacy center provides services to child abuse victims and adult sexual assault victims. Services provided include forensic interviewing, forensic medical exams, sexual assault nurse examiners, hair testing for drug-exposed children and advocacy to the victims of child abuse and sexual assault.
Decor inside the building is family-friendly with books and toys for kids.
The facility includes two interview rooms, one for younger children and another for teenagers. Inside the room, an interviewer will meet with a child one on one. Law enforcement or other professionals can watch the interview through video cameras linked to an observation room. Each interview is recorded on DVD for later use by prosecutors or other law enforcement.
The Hastings office also includes a conference room for training, offices for staff, and a kitchen area where snacks can be kept for children. Another room will be used for medical exams once it is completed.
Jamie Vetter, FAN executive director, said putting in a satellite office in Hastings will make sure there isn’t a geographical barrier to service. Sometimes, the distance to the closest child advocacy center is prohibitive to families or law enforcement.
FAN serves 14 counties: Adams, Blaine, Buffalo, Custer, Dawson, Franklin, Furnace, Gosper, Harlan, Kearney, Loup, Phelps, Sherman and Valley counties. The home office in Kearney will be joined by another satellite office in Broken Bow later this year.
Allen Sedlak, a detective with the Hastings Police Department, said the facility is needed to help avoid putting children through the added stress of driving an hour or more to conduct an interview. Having an office in Hastings will make it less stressful on children who already are enduring a stressful situation.
“This will be nice,” he said, looking around the new office. “It has been long awaited for this place to be open.”
Several agencies worked together to make the satellite office possible. An anonymous donation funded the building. Mary Lanning Healthcare leased the land for $1 for 99 years. Hastings Community Foundation provided a grant to buy the electronic equipment needed for facility. The Hastings Police Officers Association and other organizations helped furnish the facility.
Local dignitaries were on hand to speak during the open house.
State Sen. Steve Halloran congratulated the city for working together to make the satellite location possible.
“I, like you, have a rough time wrapping my arms around the fact that anyone can abuse a child,” Halloran said.
Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte said a child advocacy center received the highest number of votes from the 98 ideas to improve the city submitted online.
“Thank you to the community of Hastings for all that you are doing to support this,” he said. “We look forward to all help that you will give to children in the area as well as law enforcement.”
Adams County Attorney Donna Fegler Daiss said the FAN office will help ensure that victims of child abuse will continue to have a strong voice.
“As your county attorney for more than 20 years, this community has never ceased to amaze me,” she said. “When a need is identified, you open your arms and embrace the challenge and encourage change.”