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After a decade serving vulnerable youth of York County, the Children's Advocacy Center officially took ownership of its South Queen Street building Thursday.

The county used a grant in 2006 to purchase the building for use by the center. Under the terms, if the center used the building for the next 10 years, it could assume ownership.

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That happened last week during a small ceremony in which the center's board president, Fairview Township Police Chief Jason Loper, was given a ceremonial golden key to the building at 28 S. Queen St.

Loper, formerly a detective with his department, commended the effects the advocacy center has had on the handling of child abuse cases. Loper said that before becoming chief, he dealt with child abuse cases and worked with the advocacy center during those times.

The chief said before the center came into existence, all of the organizations that deal with a case of child abuse might have had to speak with the victim individually. The center provides a location for the children where all organizations can be centrally involved.

"It's so much easier on the kids and families," Loper said.

He added that children can even receive medical exams there.

"It's a much more uniform process," he said, comparing it to how cases were handled before the center existed.

4,100 kids: In 10 years, the center has assisted about 4,100 children. Executive Director Deb Harrison called the caseload a challenge, but she said the people in the organization are happy they have been there for the kids.

The number of children they have helped this year is about 800, Harrison said, an increase from the 684 assisted in 2015.

She said the center serves as a "first step" for kids in the child abuse cases, and the center's trained interviewers speak with them first. Harrison said at one point the center dealt within a smaller age range, but in recent years the coverage was changed so it deals with all York County minors, ages 3 to 17, for child abuse cases.

"That change was really good," she said.

York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes was among the many attending the event. She praised the work being done at the center.

"Unfortunately, it's very valuable work," she said.

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VIDEO: Children's Advocacy Center open house

Byrnes said that without the center, potential abuse victims would be sent to the emergency room.

"I think it would be much scarier for the children," she said.

Byrnes described the center as having a "home" feeling and setting, which helps children feel more comfortable.

"We're very lucky in York County to have this," she said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

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