Longtime family advocate to retire
Yavapai Family Advocacy Center Director Kathleen McLaughlin cannot quit talking about the advocates' tremendous value to the community, even as she prepares to take her leave after 10 years with the agency.
"The difference they make in the life of an individual can't be understated," McLaughlin said this week before she shifts into semi-retirement.
Friday, March 13, is McLaughlin's last day at Prescott Valley's Advocacy Center. She will move into a part-time position as coordinator for Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network, a statewide network of 18 centers that provides technical assistance and resource identification.
"I'm slowing down, but I'll still be in the field working with people I respect - the people in other centers - to make sure this model, the Advocacy Center model, continues," she said.
Pam Mason, training coordinator for the Center's parent organization Prevent Child Abuse, steps in as interim director. Mason is responsible for the Advanced Forensic Interview Training program, "and she's a perfect fit," McLaughlin said.
In 1999, McLaughlin retired from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office to take the Center's director position. She began her career in law enforcement in 1975 working as a meter maid in Safford. She still stays in contact with friends from that job.
In 1977 she worked as a YSCO deputy in Sedona, moved to a Black Canyon City assignment in 1981, and transferred to the Prescott area in 1994.
She remembers how unpleasant it was for investigators and Child Protective Service caseworkers to interview victims of violence and sexual abuse. She said she feels the training the Center provides is the biggest contribution in which she was involved.
"The training just made a world of difference in the way these cases were investigated," she said.
The biggest challenge the Center continues to work on is the criminal justice system. It is difficult to change a system that is steeped in culture, with administrators who have not fully incorporated a collaborative model, she said.
"I can tell you, Yavapai County, prior to the Advocacy Center, had not been as successful in investigating and prosecuting sexual abuse and domestic violence cases. The community is safer and families are now getting the resources necessary to heal," McLaughlin said, adding that the consequences of abuse last a lifetime.
McLaughlin wants the community to remember that the Center offers speakers, education and awareness. If community members don't know how to identify family violence and child abuse, it goes unreported and nothing is done.
Nonprofits are facing tough times as money becomes scarcer. McLaughlin said the Center does not need food, clothes or more Teddy bears. Instead, it could use gift cards for office supplies, or monetary contributions for rent, utilities, maintenance, and overhead costs.
Those wanting to join the Family Advocacy Center in wishing McLaughlin adieu may stop by the Center from 1 - 4 p.m. on Friday.