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Children's Advocacy Center to hold open house Thursday

Jason Addy

The York County Children’s Advocacy Center will mark the end of its 10th year of service with an open house Thursday evening to thank its partner agencies in the region.

The open house will feature a short ceremony in which York County commissioners will hand over a ceremonial golden key to the South Queen Street building, said Deb Harrison, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

The building was purchased and renovated a decade ago through a grant from the county. Under the terms of the grant, the building would become the property of the Children’s Advocacy Center if the organization utilized the space to serve children for 10 years, Harrison said.

Mayor Kim Bracey, center, along with York County Commissioners Doug Hoke, left, and Chris Reilly, second from right, present a proclamation declaring April to be Child Abuse Awareness Month to Deborah Harrison, executive director of the York County Children's Advocacy Center on Monday. To raise awareness, pinwheel gardens have been placed at York College, Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center, and near York Hospital.

Over the course of the past decade, Harrison said, the center’s mission has not changed much, though the caseload has almost quadrupled. The organization started with three staff members handling about 200 abuse cases for children between the ages of 3 and 13 each year, but the scope of its mission has expanded, with seven employees now handling close to 800 cases for children between 3 and 17 annually, Harrison said.

At that pace, the organization’s staff and caseload might soon outgrow the building, Harrison said, noting that there have been initial discussions about sharing a location with staff from the York County Office of Children, Youth and Family, the district attorney’s office and other law-enforcement agencies.

“We feel like we could do a better service and some more efficient investigations if we could maybe put the right teams under the same roof,” Harrison said, though any co-location project would be years out.

Through a grant from Memorial Hospital, Harrison said, a group of members from the center and its partners were able to tour the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance to explore possibilities and see co-location practices in use.

With the South Queen Street building now an asset of the Children’s Advocacy Center, it could be used to help finance any potential expansion or relocation, Harrison said.

“It’s a dream right now, but we feel like our numbers and our need in York County justifies the idea,” Harrison said. “Now we just need to figure out how to make it happen.”