Diana Schunn teared up a bit Wednesday when Sedgwick County commissioners unanimously approved giving the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County $1 million to renovate the former Lincoln Elementary School into a one-stop place to help children.
The executive director of the center, Schunn said she was “extraordinarily excited” for the county’s help in putting services for abused and neglected children under one roof.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the request. Commissioner Richard Ranzau was absent.
“We owe it to society” to help children when they need it the most, Commissioner Tim Norton said.
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County Manager William Buchanan said the center will serve the “most vulnerable” children of the community. The center serves about 2,000 children a year.
Commissioner Karl Peterjohn challenged the city of Wichita and the state to help the center with its fund-raising efforts. He also thanked private donors for stepping up toward the “Behind Closed Doors” campaign.
The center already had raised about $4.1 million of the $6.5 million it needs to renovate the school.
The advocacy center now is housed in the basement of the Finney State Office Building. So is the Exploited and Missing Child Unit, a joint unit of the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office that investigates child abuse and neglect. The unit works as a team with social workers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
The move to the former school will allow about 55 people from eight agencies to work together in one place to help children. Schunn hopes that will help lessen the trauma children endure when they have to tell strangers what happened to them.
The Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children team also will work out of the new center.