Safe house planned for abused children

February 19, 2008 11:41:45 AM PST
An old farmhouse may not look like much right now, but soon it will be transformed into a place where child victims of abuse can feel safe. The run-down farmhouse is located along Germantown Pike in East Norriton.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman has a vision that involves more than a new coat of paint. During her years as a prosecutor she was always bothered by the way the criminal justice system dealt with victims of child abuse.

"The little kid would have to talk to a police officer, a detective, a social worker and a psychiatrist and a doctor and a prosecutor," explained Ferman. "The criminal justice was actually as bad as the abuse. It hurt as much as the abuse sometimes and that was just wrong."

Ferman envisions a more streamlined way of dealing with abuse cases. Other members of law enforcement and area child advocates shared her vision and Mission Kids was born.

"Instead of sending a little kid whose been abused out to speak to lots of different people and different places we come to the child," said Ferman.

John McGowan, chief of police in East Norriton, added, "When these investigations took place they were in police departments. Very militaristic. Nothing friendly about it."

He says the new center will have playrooms, toys and paintings, similar to a pediatrician's office. The idea is to make the child and his or her parents feel safe and protected.

"It is a streamlined, collaborative process that is designed to minimize trauma to a child who has already been hurt," said McGowan.

Mission Kids has raised more than $200,000 so far. They also need approval from the Montgomery county Board of Commissioners.

If all goes well, the center should open by the end of 2009.