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Child advocacy group serving Pearl River County

Pearl River County is one of the seven counties in south Mississippi being served by Kids Hub, a new non-profit organization dedicated to providing advocacy to abused children.

Executive Director DiDi Ellis said the goal of Kids Hub is to respond to child abuse with a multidisciplinary approach that will reduce trauma for the victims and their non-offending caregivers. The Hattiesburg-based organization received approval for their 501(c)(3) status in August and is currently still in its fundraising stage.

“Our mission is to provide child advocacy to victims of physical or sexual abuse in our communities,” said Ellis, who is already working with multidisciplinary teams in seven counties – Lamar, Forrest, Marion, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Covington and Pearl River – to conduct case reviews.

“On a monthly basis, we staff 20 to 30 cases in Pearl River County that are currently being investigated or pending trial,” said Ellis. In addition to the Kids Hub staff, the multidisciplinary team includes representatives from: Poplarville and Picayune Police Departments, the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department, mental health agencies, the Department of Home Services, the District Attorney’s office, medical providers, and youth court personnel. The goal is to develop a standard response to each case in an effort to reduce trauma to the victims and support successful legal intervention. Follow-up assistance is presented to the families of the affected children.

The case reviews conducted by the Kids Hub multidisciplinary team are an ongoing service, and the organization will also offer forensic interviews in the future.

“After an allegation of abuse has been made, we would provide the child with a forensic interview,” said Ellis.

Kids Hub would use trained professionals to conduct the interviews, which are designed to be unbiased and fact-finding in nature. The goal is to get the victims to illicit a statement about their experience. Ellis said that the organization would also interview children who witness a violent crime.

After getting the child’s statement, Kids Hub will provide resources and referrals to mental health professionals and help the non-offending caregivers through the necessary steps to receive assistance.

“We help remove barriers to these services,” said Ellis.

Ellis spent two years driving from her home in Petal to work in McComb at the Child Advocacy Center in Pike County. She said her passion for helping children, along with the encouragement of her former director, inspired her to start Kids Hub. For Ellis, it is an attempt to find a solution to what statistics suggest is a serious problem. In 2013 alone, DHS received 730 reports of child sexual abuse in the seven counties the organization serves; 120 of those reports came from Pearl River County.

As a non-profit organization, Kids Hub is dependent upon funding from grants and donations in order to operate. They are currently hosting a fundraiser called “The 1,000 Women Challenge” in an effort to raise money and awareness for their cause. The fundraiser challenges 1,000 women to raise $100 each for a tax-deductible donation to Kids Hub. For more information, call Kids Hub at 601-441-1489 or visit their website at Kidshubms.com.