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Helping Kids Heal

Helping Kids Heal
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February 2019

The Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center is now able to reach more victims of abuse



Executive director Carole Swiecicki at the new Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center in Mount Pleasant

Every child deserves a safe space, one far removed from harm or fear. And if a child’s sense of safety has been threatened by abuse or exposure to trauma, he or she also deserves a space to heal.

Local youth have found such a place in the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center. It opened downtown in 1991, the hard-won result of a Junior League of Charleston community survey that had identified gaps in services available to young victims and noted a failure of agencies to communicate and collaborate in helping them.

In 28 years, the center has served more than 28,000 children and their families, offering forensic interviews, mental health assessments, medical and therapy services, and other necessities in one welcoming location.

“We serve as a one-stop shop,” says executive director Carole Swiecicki, Ph.D., explaining that Dee Norton brings together all of the people surrounding a case—including parents, law enforcement officers, and professionals from the Department of Social Services—to work in a patient’s best interest.

Their efforts are paying off, and paying forward. After treatment, more than 90 percent of young clients show indications of improvement—for example, their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as frequent nightmares, diminish.

Dee Norton’s annual dinner auction is February 7 at the Cedar Room in the Cigar Factory. Find details at deenortoncenter.org.

And thanks to another big community push—a capital campaign that reached its $5.2-million goal in December—Dee Norton will soon be aiding even more children. In August, a second location opened on Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant to “reach an underserved area of Charleston,” says Swiecicki. Research had shown that the downtown facility was only serving about 36 percent of children suffering from abuse East of the Cooper and 21 percent of those on Daniel Island and in Cainhoy. In addition, reported incidents of child abuse are expected to rise as the area’s population grows.

Once the Mount Pleasant outpost was up and running, Dee Norton closed its King Street headquarters for renovations and expansion; after it reopens, the nonprofit will be capable of serving twice as many clients—some 3,500 per year.

Staffers worked closely with architects and designers to make each facility as inviting as possible, right down to the warm yellow interiors. Their choices in Mount Pleasant recently got a nod of approval when a child declared, “It’s much more funner now.” Dee Norton’s mission is accomplished when “funner” translates to brighter, happier futures for children all across the Lowcountry.

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Photograph (dinner auction) Rachel Red Photography