County hires interim child center director

The Clark County Children’s Advocacy Center, which includes the recently suspended program of forensic sexual assault exams for child victims, has a new interim director.

On Tuesday, Clark County commissioners approved a $78,0000 expenditure to hire Jacqueline Winston for the job. Winston is the president of the board for the National Children’s Alliance and a former director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Clark County Family Services Director Tom Morton said she will bring a wealth of experience to the job and fill a role that is much needed in Las Vegas.

“We have a talented national expert to help us rebuild the program,” Morton said.

In October, Morton suspended the exam function of the Sexual Abuse Investigative Team, which opened in 1990 to offer a child-sensitive approach to juvenile victims who may have been raped or assaulted.

The decision was made because of insufficient staffing issues and prompted backlash from community child advocates and donors who had financially supported the $1 million construction of the center that houses the team, called SAINT.

Morton said that with Winston’s help, he hopes to see the exam portion of SAINT restarted in early January, or sooner if possible. The county is now negotiating with the Children’s Healthcare Network to operate the exam portion of the program.

Child advocate Donna Coleman, who spoke out against the way Morton abruptly halted the sex abuse exams, was pleased to hear that the effort is under way to restart it.

“On the plus side, I’m cautiously optimistic about this contract,” Coleman said. “This seems like a good person to get.”

Coleman’s only criticism is that even though the county promised better communication with supporters of child welfare services, no one on the Children’s Advocacy Center committee was contacted about the hire, to her knowledge.

Winston will be responsible for having the center meet national accreditation standards, Nevada statutes and statewide child welfare policies.

Morton said she also will work with local law enforcement and medical professionals to improve the quality of child sexual abuse investigations.

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