Child Safe of Central Missouri, Inc., a child advocacy center, held its annual Board of Directors meeting and dinner Tuesday night at the “The Venue” in downtown Sedalia.

Child Safe serves 13 surrounding counties and works with well over 70 law enforcement agencies, according to Executive Director Mari Asbury. She said the reason for the dinner was to thank the communities that Child Safe serves on a daily basis.

Asbury noted that Child Safe completed 411 interviews last year. “So probably on average, every day we talk to at least seven law enforcement agencies, children's division or prosecutors,” she said. “It takes all of us to make sure these cases and children are heard.”

Child Safe was founded 19 years ago at 10th and Ohio in Sedalia. It is one of 16 such facilities in Missouri, and one of 881 in the USA.

According to Board President James Cunningham, child abuse is “a terrible problem that we can't seem to get rid of,” and the dinner was way to give back and thank those individuals and organizations who give their time, talent, labor, services and money to Child Safe every year.

Child Safe's mission statement is “to respond and prevent child abuse, help families heal and restore childhood hope” – all at no cost to the family. The goal of the organization is to limit the number of interviews a child is subject to by bringing all disciplines involved to a central, child-friendly location to minimize trauma.

Guest speaker for the event was Albert Grieve, who shared personal details of his childhood trauma as an abused youth. Grieve, 34, currently serves as an attorney for the Missouri Children's Division. He previously served as a Jefferson City policeman for four years, and two years as a reserve officer.

“Everything we do has a ripple effect,” Grieve said. “And it's up to you, to determine if it's positive or negative.”

According to stats presented at the meeting:

*One in 10 children will be abused by the age of 10.
*One in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
*One in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
*Only 10 percent of abused children are abused by strangers.
*There are currently about 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in the USA today.

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office won the Outstanding Agency Award.
Kyle Herrick (not present) won the Chammpion For Children Award.
Heather Lynn won the Carolyn Green Service Award.
Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sawyer and Jo Leigh Fischer won Hero Awards.

About 120 people attended Tuesday night's event, dubbed as a "Night of Gratitude," catered by Country Kitchen.

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