CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center is planning a Mt. Pleasant expansion, anticipating the need for child abuse services to double over the next twenty years.
The center, which has served 26,000 children and families since its inception, currently operates in downtown Charleston on King St.
"Our current location is really outstanding for meeting the need for children that live in the Charleston peninsula and North Charleston," Dr. Carole Swiecicki, executive director of the center said. "But we're not meeting the need particularly, East of the Cooper, all the way up to Awendaw where only one out of every three children that needs our services is getting our services."
According to Swiecicki, the Dee Norton center rents its King St. location for $1 per year from the City of Charleston and extended its lease for an additional 30 years.
"However, unless we are proactive, one out of two children will not receive the help they need and deserve," Swiecicki said. "Without increasing Dee Norton's capacity, a staggering number of children will never heal from their emotional wounds."
The second location at 677 Long Point Rd. in Mt. Pleasant is expected to increase access East of the Cooper as well as Berkeley County.
"We're not going to turn children and families away, we never have," Swiecicki said. "The need is very dire right now for us to meet the need right now and not have families wait."
According to the Sylvia Mitchum with Charleston County's Department of Social Services, around 1,900 cases of child abuse were investigated in the county last year; more than 650 were confirmed cases of abuse.
Statewide, confirmed cases of child abuse total more than 18,000, according to Governor Henry McMaster's office.
Heather Woolwine, local communications chair for Children's Trust of SC, said the numbers most likely reflect a combination of increased cases as well as better reporting.
"Clearly, there's a need for more service," Woolwine said. "There's also clearly a need for more prevention."
According to experts, prevention education could curb an increased number of cases.
"There are things parents can do to prevent sexual abuse, to help prevent physically abuse," Swiecicki said. "Parents need to know what those are so ideally the need doesn't grow as twice as much in twenty years."
The Dee Norton Mt. Pleasant location is expected to open in early 2018.
Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.