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Sexually abused children get renovated help center in Berrien County

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A Berrien County center is expanding to keep up with the number of sexually abused children it helps counsel.

Officials broke ground on an improved facility today in St. Joseph.

The Berrien County "Children's Assessment Center" has seen such an increase in abuse reports... they need more room to meet the needs of the children.

Before any groundbreaking, work on the Berrien County Children's Assessment Center was being done - that's because time is of the essence.

"We really couldn't wait much longer," said Jamie Rossow, the center's Executive Director. "We opened the door and 2002 and saw 67 kids, and last year we saw over 500."

Those children have all been sexually abused in some way.

"We see anything from fondling and exposure to pornography, to probably anything you can imagine could happen to a child with sexual abuse," said Rossow.

The center conducts interviews with those children, which helps law enforcement and the prosecutor's office.

"An interview can be done here one time with the police officer [and] prosecutor sitting on the other side of a window listening to the interview. While professional, trained people are doing that interview," said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.

"It's just an invaluable asset to our county to have that investigative technique," said Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic.

Therapists also provide free, long-term counseling the children and their families.

"They can come out on the other side and leave really productive lives if they get the services that they need."

The expansion is providing more individual therapy rooms, as well as group counseling room and mock courtroom, to help children get used to testifying when their case is prosecuted.

As the new concrete is laid, therapists at the center look forward to using the renovated building to help children get back a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.

The center's expansion is being funded entirely by corporate and individual donations.

They have raised nearly $800,000 but still need $400,000 to pay for the $1.2 million project.

The center serves Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties.

The children are currently being seen at medical center until construction wraps up in October.

If you are interested in learning more or helping with the project you can visit their website:http://www.berrienchild.org/

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