#SpotlightSunday w. Michael McHenry

The Ordinary Hero Award was developed by the Children’s Safety Center in 2008, as a way for the members of the Washington County Multi-Disciplinary Team to honor one of their own. The MDT is comprised of Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigators, local law enforcement, the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, DHS’s Division of Children & Family Services, and Children’s Safety Center staff.

This past March at our 4th annual Partners + Prevention luncheon we presented the Ordinary Hero Award to Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Investigator, Michael McHenry.

Michael is a person who is determined. He has a “firmness of purpose and a resolve to achieve a goal, no matter the obstacles.”

A co-worker of Michael’s shared the following: “Though I haven’t been here long, I have noticed Michael’s dedication to being at every MDT meeting.  He gives detailed, concise information about the cases he is working.  He looks at every angle when investigating cases and is very thorough.  He works well with all agencies.  He genuinely cares and takes to heart the abuse our victims go through.” 

Another MDT member noted, “As a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center I don’t spend as much time with Michael as some people do but from my experience working with him and seeing him in MDT meetings, Michael truly puts his entire heart into his cases. He invests himself in each and every case to make sure that the children we work with are taken care of and protected. Michael is extraordinary at his job and the children he works with are lucky to have him on their side.”

A colleague told Children’s Safety Center development director, “Michael is so passionate about his job! He puts 110% into each case he works and truly cares for the children involved in these cases. He understands the need and importance of a multidisciplinary team when it comes to his role. He sees the bigger picture for these children and wants all the agencies involved to work together to do their part to serve the victims and their families. I admire the hard work he puts in and the extra mile that he goes each and every day! THANK YOU MICHAEL for continuing to fight for children who don’t have a voice!”

Another description of Michael is, “He goes above and beyond for EVERY case he works. He is not ‘just’ an investigator, but also an advocate for child abuse victims and their non-offender caregivers. It does not go unnoticed by his fellow MDT members, nor the caregivers of the children he advocates for! His passion shines bright and radiates onto others around him. He deserves the Ordinary Hero Award for putting up an extraordinary fight against child abuse!”

Here is Michael in his own words:

How does it feel being chosen as the Children’s Safety Center’s 2019 Ordinary Hero?

I was surprised and deeply honored to accept this year’s award for Ordinary Hero.  I feel that everyone on the MDT team shares the same passion and drive to do hard work in this field.  CACD’s involvement on each case helps everyone on the team, especially DHS, local law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and our community.    

A little background and history of you and your job with Arkansas State Police is:

A little background about me is that I joined the ranks of ASP/CACD in January 2018. My duties include being a forensic interviewer for child abuse victims and helping local law enforcement agencies investigate these crimes.  I thoroughly enjoy this field because it is meaningful and rewarding to see cases acted upon very swiftly by multiple agencies, but it is even more amazing to see how information sharing and cooperation between various agencies leads to successful results in every single case.

How do Arkansas State Police and the Children’s Safety Center work together and why is it important?

Successful partnerships between various agencies are always the glue that keeps people focused on the finish line for every case.  Not only does the CSC provide an incredibly trusted resource for victims of child abuse but they also continue to support the family for years.  The CSC was built for a reason, which is to provide a single, safe, neutral entity that children can go to in order for the child to feel safe and supported, but also help the family start to recover and heal from the most traumatic experiences they’ve ever lived through.  Building bridges with every agency and organization in this field is essential to successful results.

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center?

My favorite thing about the Children Safety Center is the fact that it employs some of the most devoted individuals in this field that focus on one thing:  helping the child.  Not only this, but the CSC is a central resource for the entire community, providing resources that help families in every aspect of their lives.  I am very thankful for how quickly each advocate and interviewer responds to each case that I work with them.  Without the CSC, I feel that my job would be so much more difficult. 

Why is it important to spread awareness of the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to the community?

In many cases that I work, families are still unaware of what the CSC is and what they do to help the victim and the victim’s family.  Spreading awareness of the mission of what the CSC does every day helps show the victim, their family, and the entire community that no one has to go through this journey alone. 

Fun Fact that people may not know about you:

In 2012, I won an Emmy for a syndicated television show project in Fayetteville that I was a part of that shined light on how drug courts in America help with the ever-growing problem of substance abuse in our local community.  Ever since then, I have continued my interest in the creative field, hoping to one day win an Oscar…stay tuned

Below is Michael’s Ordinary Hero Award acceptance speech:

Something that I would like to start with is a little story by Shel Silverstein, that I’m sure we have all read at some point in our lives:

“I cannot go to school today”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in.

My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There’s a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is …
What? What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is ………….. Saturday?

G’bye, I’m going out to play!” 
― Shel Silverstein

Mr. Silverstein may not have fully understood the fact that children are affected by more than just a dry throat and enlarged tonsils.  Some problems are much worse, and don’t allow children to go out and play like they used too…or even allow them to go to a safe home. 

I started in this position a little over a year ago and I have never had a real opportunity to work with children in previous law enforcement positions throughout my entire career.

I can still remember the first child that was interviewed on my first day at work, which I observed at the CSC in Springdale.  He was a young man, about 12 years old, and he had autism.  Throughout the interview with Karen, I noticed that he would not answer a tough question unless he placed his foot on top of her foot…this tiny little movement seemed to give him the courage to move forward in the conversation, even with tears in his eyes.  I was heartbroken when he told his story that day.

From that first day through today, I could not have done this job without the help of this entire team of professionals.  Some days, as we have all experienced, are much worse than others.  However, it is through the cooperation, communication, daily uplifting, and partnership that I’ve spent the past year working on with each of you in order to help save the lives of children in our communities.  I believe in partnerships and building bridges, but sometimes bridges need to be rebuilt on a foundation of trust, encouragement, and support.  In short, I could not have done this job without all of your expertise, patience, and assistance. 

Some of you I’ve harassed with multiple phone calls, that I always followed up with long and exhausting voicemails, hundreds of text messages, pages of emails, and then even a personal visit to your office where I would either find you, wait for you, or put a mountain of sticky notes on your desk…all of this in a matter of an hour or less sometimes.  As most of you know, I am persistent, but I have the best of intentions, because what drives me is the health and well-being of those that can’t protect or help themselves.  I remain approachable even if we disagree, because I can’t learn how to better protect children if you don’t provide me constructive feedback.  I get tunnel vision sometimes, as we all do, but I never lose focus. 

I don’t have enough time up here to thank each of you by name, because there are a lot of names, but if you are in this room, as well as those that could not be here today, please stand and give each other a round of applause for the work that we do every day.

Lastly, I would like to personally thank the Children Safety Center in Springdale for your daily encouragement and words of wisdom…and, of course, your patience in allowing me to use your conference room many times as my office.  Without each of you, this job could have been much more challenging.  Whether a child is 2 years old or 17 years old, the Children Safety Center remains one of, if not the best option, to help children of all ages get the resources they need to start healing from their trauma. 

A quote that drives each and every one of us, stands firmly today:  “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

#SupporterSaturday w. Sassafras Springs Vineyard

Gene and Cheryl Long opened Sassafras Springs Vineyard and Winery 5 years ago.  With over 60 acres on the estate, the Longs have created beautiful spaces for guests to relax with a glass of wine, have a party, host a special event and have beautiful wedding, all going on at the same time in different spaces.

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

We became involved when Emily from the Children’s Safety Center reached out to us regarding a fundraiser they were having and they were looking for a donation of wine. We have been a contributor to them since that first year we opened and met them. We took a tour of the center and they showed us all that they do. Gene and I both cried. Literally, we cried. 

Why do you continue to stay involved?

We have such a heart for the Children’s Safety Center because it is such a necessary part of our community and we have a heart for what they do at the center to help sexually and physically abused children. The number of children that they saw last year was a approximately 838. The need for their service is so grand. 

What is your favorite thing about the Children’s Safety Center?

We love the people that work there. They have a sincere heart for helping children and adolescents through a traumatic time. We love the way that they handle this horrible situation and help families from disclosure of abuse to healing.  The way that they mentor, nurture and council is so well thought out and organized.

Why is it important to spread the mission of the Children’s Safety Center to the community?

More people need to be aware. There needs to be more awareness and support so the center can provide these necessary services. God puts us here for a reason, and we believe that the more people that know about the purpose of the center, the more money they will receive to support the children.

Fun Fact that people may not know about The Long’s or Sassafras Springs?

We love what we do! We love our customers and we love to meet new ones too. It is a small farm winery family business. We have 15 children and grandchildren so far. We hope all of our children join in and work at the winery. Some already do. Drew is our general manager, Derek is our wine maker and vineyard/grounds manager and Sarah is our wedding/event coordinator. Gene is usually mowing or building something and Cheryl is social media/advertising and email queen. Our first wine that we produced and bottled was entered into an international wine competition and we won a gold medal. There is so much to do and we have had so much growth. We want to continue to grow. Our lodge at the winery will be opening soon so stay tuned!




Any last thoughts folks should know?

Gene and Cheryl have recently retired and we now have a corgi dog. She will be around the winery some too. We welcome you to come by anytime and visit us and try some of our wine. 

CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Casey Atwood

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Casey, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

I have worked at the Children’s Safety Center for 13 years. I am the Program Director and I oversee the programs as well as provide child sexual abuse prevention and education to our community. Over the last year I have been fortunate to educate over 1,300 adults right here in Washington County.

Why did you become a social worker?

I always knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know what that would look like until I took Introduction to Social Work in college and realized that this was the field I wanted to pursue.

Something that people might not know about social workers…

I think people would be surprised to know how many agencies have social workers on staff.  According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for social workers is expected to grow twice as fast as any other occupation.

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center?

I love walking in the door and seeing all of the handprints on the wall from all the children that have been able to receive our services and tell their story. People often ask how I can do this work and hear these kids stories. I always tell them that when the children come to us the abuse has already happened and we can’t take that away, but if we get to be the ones to help them start their journey to healing, that’s pretty amazing.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

Try to focus on the small victories. In this work, you often don’t get to see the long term outcomes of your clients, so when you see small successes like when a client makes a breakthrough in therapy or finally feels safe enough to sleep in their bed again…Remember that these are the reasons we do this work and that we are making a difference!

CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Brittni Jeffers

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Brittni, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

I have been a Child Advocate and a Child Forensic Interviewer at The Children’s Safety Center for 2 years, this month. I can either be an advocate or an interviewer for a child, but never both for the same child. As an advocate I have the pleasure of walking alongside victims of child abuse as they travel their rigorous journey of healing. I am the stable confidant that many of these children have not received previous to entering the doors of the Children’s Safety Center. I can and will be there for a child and their non-offending caregivers as long as they need me. For other children, as a Forensic Interviewer, I am the person whom they trust with their heaviest burden. I utilize an interviewing protocol that assists them in building confidence and empowerment in themselves to share their experiences with me. For many of these youth, I am the first person whom they have told their entire experience to. I love the dynamics of each of my roles; as each day is unique.

Why did you become a social worker?

I became a social worker with the ambitions to impact the life of at least one other person, for the better.

Something that people might not know about social workers…

Most people assume that social work is only linked to DHS, when in fact there are social workers in other professional areas such as schools, hospitals, mental health, advocacy, adoptions, corrections, public health, research, and teaching.

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center?

My favorite thing about being a social worker is the uniqueness of each client. I always want to give my clients the best services possible, so I like finding new resources and utilizing best-practices.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

Self-care! Self-care! Self-care! Social work is as fluid as a river. All social workers must put their life vests on first, before helping others do so. You may adapt to the needs of others, but also be ready to stand up in the waters when things are not flowing properly. If your drowning, how much help can you actually provide others?!

Anything else…

At the Children’s Safety Center we are recognized and appreciated often, and I am blessed for that. Other Social Workers are not as often recognized for their efforts and the impacts that they have on our communities. Just know, I see you and thank you for ALL that you do!

CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Jeni McIntyre

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Jeni, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

I have worked at the Children’s Safety Center a little over two years.  I am a therapist and I have the best job at the center (though many argue with me when I say that…). I get to walk with kids through some of the hardest things imaginable- stuff that many adults couldn’t handle- and come out of it on the other side.  I get to see the healing. I get to see the kids and their families put the pieces back together.  I see the hope for the future.  It’s the part that makes the really hard days worth it.  I also have the really fun job of supervising interns.  I love that part.  I love helping future social workers become great therapists and feel comfortable working with, talking about, and doing the hard stuff. Clearly, my job really is the best!

Why did you become a social worker?

I used to want to be a doctor but then one day I realized that healing the outside didn’t matter that much if the inside still hurt and I knew that’s what I wanted to do- I didn’t yet know that meant Social Work. I want to help everyone that I can just be okay with who they are, embrace where they’ve been and move into a future that they want. Trauma has always been my focus- it breaks families, it leads to health problems, relationship problems, and addiction problems and it doesn’t have to. I wish I could just make trauma not be a thing but I can’t so I want to do everything that I can to make sure it has as little negative impact in a person’s life as possible.

Something that people might not know about social workers…

We are really cool. We can do all kinds of things and work in all kinds of places. If you need something a social worker is a great place to start. 

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center?

One thing?  That’s hard.  I need at least two.  The first is of course the kids and families that I have the privilege to work with.  They are mighty warriors and I feel honored to be in their presence on a daily basis. The second is this team.  It’s the best. We are supportive of each other. We complement each other in a way that makes us an amazing team. Teams like our aren’t just found everywhere and I recognize how blessed I am to be on one. Maybe one more? Another thing that I really appreciate about working at the Children’s Safety Center is the support that I/we receive from our director and our board. They are willing to send all of us to trainings and support us when things are hard. I am constantly able to improve my skills and serve my kids better. Our leadership truly supports us in everything we do.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

Know yourself, take care of the big stuff, practice self-care, and know that some days are going to be really hard but in the end it’s all worth it.

CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Karen Blackstone

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Karen, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

When the Children’s Safety Center first opened I volunteered and then created an internship here at the CSC. A month after completing the internship I was hired as a child advocate and then later moved into the forensic interviewer role. So, I have been at the CSC pretty much since the beginning of operation, 22 years. I am also the Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator for Washington County and a Peer Review Facilitator for Children’s Advocacy Center’s of Arkansas.

Why did you become a social worker?

Honestly, I was an undeclared major for undergraduate for two years because my goal was law school. After two years I had to pick a major and I picked social work because I jokingly said “I wanted to bring humanity into the law”. However, after being in the social work program at the University of Arkansas, I found my niche. And after volunteering at the Children’s Safety Center I found my calling.

Something that people might not know about social workers…

Although most get into the field of social work because of wanting to help others from a place of empathy (based on feelings), there are others like me who also want to make the world better from a place of justice and doing what is right for others (thinking).  There are social workers who work on statistics (non-human contact), policy, administration, etc. Social work has so many diverse positions and roles that many do not realize or know.

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center?

For me the best thing about being a social worker at the Children’s Safety Center is the freedoms offered that one might not find in a position within a state or government. Freedom to make decisions regarding the best interest of each client. The freedom to learn, grow and develop as a professional. The freedom to use each staff members strengths and talents and then lean on each other in areas where improvement is needed.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

First and foremost, learn about yourself. Know why you want in the field (let this guide your personal decisions and goals). Resolve any family of origin issues you might have prior to working in this field. You cannot effectively help others if you yourself are in a place of brokenness. Have a basic understanding of what self-care looks like for you. Use internships to find the population you want to work with and to find your calling.  Apply what you learn in college and then adapt or change what doesn’t work. Be inventive, flexible and creative. And always, consider the research behind what you are doing. Keep up with current research and allow that to guide your practice.

Fun Facts

Karen has conducted over 4,000 forensic interviews and was the Ordinary Hero Award recipient in 2017.

CSC Social Worker Spotlight w. Caitlin Houk

March is National Professional Social Worker month and here at the Children’s Safety Center we are spotlighting our social workers and the many roles they play on our team.

Caitlin, how long have you worked at the Children’s Safety Center? What is your job role?

I have worked as a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center for almost three months now. My role with our kiddos is to guide them through Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in hopes to decrease their trauma reactions and symptoms.  I also get to lead a girls group once a week where we create a tight knit and supportive environment for teenage girls who have experienced trauma to process through their emotions in a healthy and healing manner.

Why did you become a social worker?

I decided to pursue a Bachelors and Masters in Social Work after I returned from a trip to Zambia. While I was there I saw the ramifications of trauma and knew that I wanted to be in a position where I could help in any way possible. With a degree in Social Work I know I can help in many different roles but have fallen in love with the role of being a Therapist at the Children’s Safety Center.

Something that people don’t know about social workers…

Social Workers can work with any age from birth to death. Many people have a preconceived idea that Social Workers only job is to take kids away from their homes but that is simply not true. Social Workers fill many roles in our community!

What is the best thing about being a social worker at the CSC?

At the CSC we see many heartbreaking situations but as a Therapist I get to witness the healing side of kids stories. I am also incredibly blessed with an amazing team of supportive and compassionate women that I get to work with every day.

Any advice for someone going into the social work field?

Self-care is so so important. In the field you will have hard and heavy days but having a good support network and self-care plan set up allows you to process through the tough days and not lose your drive and motivation for the work.  I always love the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup” because it is so true for us Social Workers. I know I am able to be the best Therapist to my kiddos when I am taking care of myself as well.

3 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Online Privacy

With spring approaching you’ll have all kinds of activities to share with your family and friends—sports games, piano recitals, dance performances, and family outings. You want to support all of your child’s endeavors and share accomplishments with loved ones. But as you start to post pictures and messages online, be careful of the information you give out. Sexual abuse perpetrators can use things like social media posts to target and build relationships with potential victims.

Information online can easily become accessible to others. Cybersecurity expert Lance Cottrell tells Consumer Reports that parents easily fall into the trap of having unrealistic expectations for privacy when it comes to posting online. As he says, “It’s like I want to hire a skywriter . . . but for nobody else to read it.” Here are a few simple things you can do to protect your child’s online privacy.

Don’t give too much information.

Think of everything you could learn about your child just looking at pictures of things like last year’s themed birthday party or the championship baseball game last spring: likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, extracurricular activities, even the school they attend. If you’re going to post a picture online, try not to include too many details. For example, maybe don’t post a picture of your five-year-old next to a school sign and tell everyone that you’re getting excited for the first day of kindergarten. There’s too much specific information there.

Ensure that accounts are private and secure.

Be aware of the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When you post something, can anyone see it or is it only available to family and friends? The default settings are often more public than you may want. Also, safeguard passwords. If you’re ever using public computers, make sure you use the private mode in a browser and fully logout of any accounts that you’re using.

Consider posting less.

It can be easy to feel like everything is worth a post, but it might not be a bad idea to post a little less. Sometimes enjoying the winning basket is more important than capturing the perfect Instagram shot. Be totally present in the moment a little more often and don’t worry about documenting and posting every little thing. Also, consider asking your child permission before you post. It’s their life you’re documenting, and they might have feelings about what you post, especially as they get older.

Make sure you share this information with your kids too. You want to do everything you can to protect their privacy online and keep them safe, but you also want to teach them to watch out for themselves. Have open conversations with your kids about online privacy and what’s appropriate to post and what’s not, especially as kids get older. Make sure your kids know that if they ever feel unsafe online or if they feel like they’ve made a mistake, they can come to you for help. You can be the biggest teacher and the biggest advocate for your child’s safety and privacy.

CSC Intern Spotlight w. MaGee Smith

Meet one of our new Event Coordinator interns, MaGee Smith. She has been at CSC for almost a month and we are already so thankful for all the work she has done. Get to know a little more about MaGee by reading below.

  • Where are you from and where did you go to college?

I am from Tyler, Texas. I attended the University of Arkansas where my major was Marketing with a minor in Management.

  • Why were you interested in applying to be an Event Coordinator at CSC?

I was interested in the position because I love to plan and am very organized; besides that, CSC is an incredible nonprofit and I am excited to be a part of their team.

  • What have you enjoyed so far about being a part of the CSC team?

Over the last few weeks, I have enjoyed getting to know my boss, Emily, better. She is a very busy woman and I am thrilled to learn from her as she successfully manages such a busy schedule. 

  • What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

I am most looking forward to helping out with the gala in the summer since it is the greatest, coolest event of the year!! However, everything I’ve heard of previous events thrown by CSC has been outstanding so I’m just excited to be a part of the action!

  • Fun Fact!

I love Mexican food!

#SupporterSaturday w. IDK? CAFE

IDK? CAFE and Justin Eaton have been providing scrumptious and creative tastes for the Children’s Safety Center’s biggest event, the Dream Big Charity Gala, for the last few years. This Tuesday, they are providing an amazing Halloween themed spread for our Open House. Stop by the CSC between 4:00pm and 6:00pm to check it out and read below to learn more and all things IDK?

How did you become involved with the Children’s Safety Center?

We started our involvement with the CSC a couple of years ago by providing appetizers for the Dream Big Gala.  It was the perfect way to showcase our food as well as help support a great cause.  Because of that one particular event, we have been able to meet other groups that also needed catering for full meal fundraisers, so it’s been really a win win.

Why do you continue to stay involved?

One of the primary reasons we stay involved is because of the work the center does for our most vulnerable members of society.  We are also the food provider for Washington county head start programs, so we have a special place in our hearts for the kids.  Also, we believe that giving back to our community is the number one way to stay relevant.

What is your favorite thing about the CSC?

Seeing the outcomes in these kids lives.  Knowing that the kids are going to be in a place where they thrive without fear or abuse, where they are free to be kids.  The hand prints.  Every time I see them it makes me smile , even for just a moment.

Why is it important to spread the mission of the CSC to the community?

Not to be completely cliche, but I believe children are our future.  I don’t have all the stats available, but the amount of neglected and abused kids is staggering to me.  Breaking the cycle of abuse starts with teaching these kids and getting them help.

Fun Fact that people may not know?

I spent a week in Nicaragua on a coffee farm.  While there I got to hand out Christmas presents to all the kids.  They were completely fascinated with my electronic devices and I’ve never felt so much genuine affection from people I barely knew.

Please give some background on yourself and what you do professionally.

Justin is the owner of IDK? CAFE.  Head over to their web-page to learn more about the Eaton family and all the wonderful food they provide www.IDKcafe.com