By: Cory William Berlekamp
“It could be a doctor’s office, could be some other thing.” Ryan Fausnaugh said as he locked up the house that was not quite a home. Tucked away on a side street, The Center for Safe and Healthy Children is shadowed by Blanchard Valley Hospital. It sits with just two cars in the parking lot today, a relief to Fausnaugh as he walks from room to room locking up the building after sending his only volunteer home.
“It’s a children’s advocacy center,” said Fausnaugh, the executive director for the center. “Our goal is to bring in every case of reported sexual abuse against the children of Hancock County and to have them work through the center. We just aren’t as blatant as saying ‘Children’s Advocacy Center of Findlay’ and that’s for a specific reason. We want some anonymity for people coming through because it is a horrible thing to go through.”
The center opened in 2006 with the goal of providing a safe atmosphere for the children but more importantly, it has acted as the only stop children would have to make when being interviewed about their trauma.
“Last year we had 95 reported cases here, 66 of them came for interviews,” said Fausnaugh. “That’s 66 kids that came through here telling you about the worst day of their life.”
The nonprofit organization has a Board of Directors in which consists of members of the community ranging from David Emsweller, vice president of student affairs at the University, to Lt. Robert Ring, who is in charge of the detective unit at the Findlay Police Department.
“We are not there every day, thank goodness,” said Lt. Ring. “Knock on wood, we have only a couple cases so far in 2018. Generally, we see that around spring time for some reason things just start to spike up.”
As a nonprofit organization, the center has to rely on grant proposals written by Fausnaugh and community support. They hold different events throughout the year to help raise money and awareness including the Night at the Mazza Museum event which took place at the University of Findlay last November.
“It’s hard to get people to understand what we do,” said Pam Lather, former president of the board. “People don’t want to talk about child abuse. You don’t go to a dinner party or a cocktail party and talk about the child abuse that’s happening out your backdoor.”
According to Lather, however, that is exactly what they want to do. Last year, before the Night at the Mazza Museum event, the University of Findlay hosted Elizabeth Smart in the AMU.
“It’s hard to get people to come out when it’s just us talking. It helps to have a little more notoriety,” said Fausnaugh.“I know everybody came to hear about her but the first five minutes allowed me to share what we are doing. So, that’s 500 people who have never heard of us, or maybe heard of us but who get a little bit more knowledge.”
UF is partnering with The Center for Safe and Healthy Children is partnering to continue their outreach by hosting these events. The University is hoping to host another author or speaker come next year in the fall. Emsweller says the University has a responsibility to help further the center’s mission.
“Well I think it’s important, I mean human trafficking and sexual abuse are things that any university would be interested in assisting the community with,” said Emsweller.
Emsweller is in his second year on the board, and, with the support of Findlay, he helps with the programming of different events and helps Fausnaugh find volunteers. An upcoming event is purse bingo on Saturday, Feb. 28.
“I haven’t been [to purse bingo], but I guess it is really big,” laughed Emsweller. “These people all come in and play bingo to win these designer purses, I guess it makes quite a lot of donations, but for instance the center wants to see if they can get some of our athletes to model the purses as they auction them off.”
Emsweller also says students have helped design events and mailing information. As for volunteering at the center, Fausnaugh was more tentative.
“It’s emotional, you feel for every one of these kids and it makes you a very conscientious parent,” said Fausnaugh. “I feel bad for my kids because there are a lot of things they won’t be able to do, not that you suspect everybody but if something sounds fishy then your red alert goes up.”