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The original item was published from 10/5/2023 10:23:54 AM to 12/5/2023 12:05:01 AM.

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Posted on: October 5, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Kenosha County DCFS employees receive honors from Child Advocacy Center

Photo of Al Smith and Jean Abell holding award certificates

The Children’s Wisconsin Kenosha County Child Advocacy Center recently honored two county staff members with awards for their efforts to protect children who are endangered by the presence of drugs in their homes.

Al Smith and Jean Abell, are Initial Assessment workers in the Child Protective Services Unit county’s Division of Children and Family Services, received the advocacy center’s Collaboration Award in recognition of their work to implement the county’s cutting-edge drug-endangered children protocol.

This protocol provides timely and meaningful delivery of services and intervention for children in a drug-endangered environment, the award states. The protocol is followed in cases where law enforcement conducts arrests in homes that are alleged to be used to sell and/or manufacture drugs.

Dr. Rita Ventura, a family nurse practitioner in the advocacy center, presented the award during an informal ceremony that included many of the honorees’ colleagues.

“We developed a protocol here in our state for a couple of communities, and Kenosha still remains cutting edge — not just in the State of Wisconsin, but in the country,” Ventura said. The success of this program is largely due to the two people in this room who are being honored today.”

Located in the Children’s Wisconsin Kenosha Clinic at 6809 122nd Ave., the Child Advocacy Center provides assessments to children who may have been harmed, with the goal of protecting children from abuse and providing resources to help them heal.

Under the drug-endangered children protocol, Smith and Abell work hand in hand with law enforcement. As law enforcement makes arrests of adults allegedly selling and/or manufacturing drugs, Smith and Abell assess the safety of all children in the home.

They begin the process to take temporary physical custody of children and ensure the children receive medical care at the Child Advocacy Center, to assess the children for drug exposure or other signs of child abuse or neglect. This begins the CPS investigation (initial assessment) of child abuse and neglect, while ensuring the safety of children through this process.

“Jean and Al have just been instrumental in our drug-endangered children protocol,” said Nila Grahl, Child Advovacy Center manager.

Smith, a 22-year veteran of the Division of Children and Family Services, thanked the Child Advocacy Center for the nomination.

As for his work, he pointed with pride to a program in which he and Abell work to train law enforcement officers to put a special lens on kids involved with situations that the officers encounter.

“We have been able to train four major law enforcement agencies in Kenosha County, starting off with the Kenosha Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, Pleasant Prairie, and then this past year with Twin Lakes,” Smith said. “For seven years, this training has gone on for the police departments in this community to keep children safe.”

Abell, in her eighth year with the county, said Smith has been her mentor since Day 1.

“I really do appreciate all of this,” Abell said. “We are very humbled to be here, and to accept this award.”

Division of Children and Family Services Director Ron Rogers echoed the other speakers who touched on Smith and Abell’s contributions to child welfare in the community.

“Jean and Al,” Rogers said, “are the epitome of working together, collaborating with local law enforcement, the Child Advocacy Center and the court system to help keep kids safe.”

Learn more:

More information about the Children’s Wisconsin Child Advocacy Center is available here.

Additional details about the Kenosha County Division of Children and Family Services and its programs and responsibilities are available here.

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