Taco Talk: Children Safety Center's Elizabeth Shackelford
Alex here. I grabbed lunch — specifically, tacos — with Elizabeth Shackelford, executive director of the Children's Safety Center of Washington County.
Driving the news: The center recently moved from its longtime home at the Center for Nonprofits in Springdale to a new building on Gene George Boulevard. The new space triples the center's size at 15,000 square feet.
Background: Most kids the safety center sees are suspected sexual abuse victims, and some are suspected of enduring physical abuse. The center conducts interviews, medical exams and therapy for people under 18 who are referred there after a report is made to the child abuse hotline, law enforcement or school.
- All services are free.
What they're saying: "The population has boomed and grown, so you can imagine child abuse doesn't stop … A lot of times, people don't realize it happens right here because it is such a wonderful community, but it does," Shackelford said.
- Shackelford does not suspect that abuse is more common, but believes children are more educated on what to report and how to go about it.
- The center provided initial services to 674 children in 2023.
Flashback: Shackelford started at the organization in 2008 as its development director. She says there are challenging days, but she is passionate about the work — in part because she gets to see children graduate from their programs.
- "I feel like I was in a bubble before I came to the center. Children should be able to be children. ... I feel like any child that is going through an investigation, especially sexual abuse, they all deserve to have services from the Children's Safety Center."
Details: The new space includes a therapy wing that will allow the center to have six full-time therapists — up from two at the old location — plus contract therapists.
- "When [kids] get to the center, the bad has happened, so we want to help them begin healing. Therapy is a critical component of that," she said.
- The building also has room for the nonprofit to host community training events instead of having to find space off-site.
What we ate: Shackelford and I discussed this difficult but important topic over lunch at Morelia Mexican Restaurant and Tortilleria in Springdale. We each got the lunch special — two tacos with rice and beans. She went with the steak on flour tortillas, and I had the chicken on corn tortillas.
- You won't go wrong with this right-size lunch for $7-$8. The chicken in these classic street tacos topped with onion and cilantro was tender and not greasy. Don't be shy with the sauce.
How to help: Anyone can reach out to the center about training sessions and other resources on how to prevent and stop child abuse. The center also keeps a needs list on its website for those who would like to donate.
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