JOLIET— When Will County Board Member Laurie Summers (D-Crete) learned that families with children in need of specialized counseling had to drive nearly an hour from her district in Eastern Will County to Joliet, she saw an opportunity to work with the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Village of Steger to increase access to those services.
“It’s important for our county to provide equitable health care services to all of our residents, especially children who have experienced trauma,” said Summers, who also chairs the Will County Board Public Health and Safety Committee. “Regular counseling is crucial for these children to be able to move beyond their trauma and develop into healthy adults.”
An open house is scheduled at the Louis Sherman Community Center in Steger from 9am to 11am on Saturday, June 15. At the open house, residents can learn about the services that the Children’s Advocacy Center provides as well as meet the therapy dogs that are often used.
When searching for a place that could host therapists from the Children’s Advocacy Center, Summers said that Steger Mayor Ken Peterson was enthusiastic about helping find space in Eastern Will County.
“Mayor Peterson got involved immediately,” said Summers. “We talked about what kind of space was needed and he graciously offered room in their community center.”
Counseling services will be offered to Will County residents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 pm to 7 pm. The afternoon services are more amenable to working parents and mean that more children will have access to critical counseling without having to drive to Joliet.
The therapy that is provided for children who have experienced trauma is highly specialized and is consequently not widely available. The Children’s Advocacy Center has three therapists who specialize in childhood trauma and abuse. Bringing a therapist to Eastern Will County for a couple of days each week will help ensure that more children have access to the support that they need to overcome the abuse and trauma they have experienced.
The Children’s Advocacy Center is a nonprofit arm of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office that works with children who have endured physical and sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, child pornography, neglect, and exposure to violence. Each year, the CAC serves more than 650 new children.
“Abused and traumatized children throughout Will County turn to the Children’s Advocacy Center for hope, healing, and justice,” said State's Attorney James Glasgow, who founded the Center in 1995 and chairs its Board of Directors. “We want to remove the barriers that prevent children from getting the help that they need. Partnering with the Village of Steger helps us bring vital counseling to more children and families.”
Children from all over Will County receive services from the Children’s Advocacy Center but in an area as geographically spread out as Will County, it is often a challenge for families to travel all of the way to Joliet for follow up counseling. Families in Eastern Will County that are in need of services will still have to come to Joliet for an initial intake procedure but they will have the option of seeking follow up counseling in Eastern Will County.
Services provided by the Children’s Advocacy Center are free to Will County residents. The group is a non-profit that receives a large part of their money through a grant from the Department of Justice, called the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Grant. Additional funds come from fundraising efforts.