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Our Story

The girl in the yellow dress.

The seeds of the Children’s Advocacy Center were planted in 1991, when then-Chief of Grand Rapids Police Bill Hegarty saw a young girl out of the corner of his eye as he strode through the police department. She stood out because she wore a yellow dress. But it was the frightened, lonely look in her eyes that really made an impression on the Chief.

That look haunted him when he discovered that the girl was there to be interviewed as part of an investigation into child sexual abuse. There had to be a better way to treat her and all the girls and boys that were being abused in Grand Rapids. So he went home that night and committed to paper his thoughts for a better way.

He envisioned a place designed specifically for youngsters, where they would feel welcomed and valued. Where specially trained adults knew how to interview children and help them heal from abuse. He went on to gather a group of people who would work together over the next two years to make his vision a reality. Hear Chief Hegarty’s story here.

The Children’s Advocacy Center opened its doors in 1993. Over the next 25 years, we served nearly 20,000 Kent County suspected victims of child sexual abuse.

New name, new building, same mission.

In 2018, the Center changed its name to the Children’s Advocacy Center, reflecting the broader scope of services we’ve come to offer through the years. We also moved into a new, larger building to offer expanded programming and accommodate more of the 1,000 cases of suspected cases of child abuse reported in Kent County each year. Not only that, the Center was recently recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as LEED Certified.

The Children’s Advocacy Center provides a safe space where children can receive all the services they may need after being sexually abused. We also go out into the community to empower children and adults to recognize, report and prevent sexual abuse.

Our Mission – Assessing and supporting child victims of suspected sexual assault and educating children and the community to prevent such assaults.

All of our services are delivered free of charge to families, thanks to the generous support of the community and the guidance of a visionary board of directors, Services are administered by an expert staff, assisted by on-site law enforcement agents and Children’s Protective Services representatives.

A community response to a community crisis.

The Center is a private, nonprofit organization funded through a partnership of government and community support and is a fully-accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance. We are a United Way Agency and receive funding from the Michigan Crime Victims Services Commission and Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. We coordinate the efforts of local organizations to stop child sexual abuse and reduce the trauma of victimized children and families.

5% of children under the age of 18 are solicited sexually online.
1,000+ suspected child sexual abuse cases are reported in Kent County each year.
75% of childhood sexual abuse is thought to go unreported.
1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused.