After just a few months of actual operation the Redwood County Child Advocacy Center is already turning heads.
The center, which is located on the second floor of the courthouse in Redwood Falls, was established as a place where children who have been abused or mistreated in some way can be interviewed in a safe and friendly environment.
“We are fully grant funded,” said Katie Salden, coordinator of the center.
While the center has received dollars to establish its facility and to operate over the next five years, those involved with the program are seeing a need for more.
Currently, said Salden, different individuals from Southwest Human Services are conducting the interviews of children, but those individuals who are doing them have other jobs that require their time.
Salden is hoping to bring on a part-time forensic interviewer to conduct those interviews, and she requested permission from the Redwood County board Tuesday at its meeting to submit an application to the Otto Bremer Foundation to help cover those costs.
While the numbers are not that high right now (Vicki Knobloch, county administrator, said there have been three interviews conducted thus far), the reality of the issue of child abuse is evident in the number of calls Salden is receiving from other counties who would like to use the child advocacy facility in Redwood County.
At this point because of a lack of people able to conduct those interviews, those requests have had to be denied, but with a forensic interviewer on hand the county could open the door to allow others the chance to utilize the center as well.
Salden said while the initial plan would be to start with a part-time position, that role would quickly move into a full-time role just based on demand.
With the option then to charge those other counties for use, the center could then become self-sustaining.
The board approved the request to apply for the grant, as well as to apply for a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council to have a mural painted in the center that would enhance the environment for those who need to use it.
In addition, the board amended an agreement for the current child advocacy grant that allows those funds to be used to cover Salden’s salary. While the Redwood County attorney’s office was instrumental in getting the center established, Salden reports to Knobloch in an effort to avoid any potential conflicts of interest with the county attorney and future criminal cases.
In other action during the meeting, the county board:
• Elected Lon Walling to serve as board chair and Jim Salfer to serve as board vice-chair for 2017.
• Adopted a resolution of support for the Minnesota Department of Corrections in its lease and operation of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.
• Set a tentative date of Jan. 31 to hold a work session with the City of Redwood Falls to discuss the engineering study of the intersection of Cook and DeKalb streets and to determine next steps for any possible work at that intersection. (The City of Redwood Falls also set that date for a work session at its meeting Tuesday night.)


Photo: Lon Walling (left), Dave Forkrud and Bob Van Hee took the oath of office as commissioners prior to the start of the Redwood County board meeting Tuesday morning.