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The Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County, which has helped more than 7,000 children who have suffered sexual abuse or neglect since its founding in 2007, is under new leadership.
The CAC, a program operated by Justice Resource Institute and which receives more than 700 referrals annually, is being led by co-directors Cathy Rutkowski and Lara Stone.
Rutkowski, an employee of JRI for 18 years, manages all aspects of the CAC’s supervision, case management, mental health services and the education and outreach program. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the mental health and child advocacy field.
While managing the Southern New England Behavioral Health & Trauma Center, Rutkowski developed and expanded the community-based services program, overseeing in-home therapy and therapeutic mentoring services. Prior to that, she assisted in the startup of an in-home behavioral services program on Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts. For several years, Rutkowski worked closely with the Department of Children and Families in Taunton/Attleboro, in her role as Family Networks Program director, where she and her team oversaw placement services for youth and the delivery of community-based services to families.
Lara Stone has worked with community-based and charitable organizations to advance and market their success for over 20 years. She is leading the $2.5 million capital campaign for a new, larger home at the CAC. Prior to joining the CAC, she served in elected office as a selectwoman in the Town of Dartmouth and privately consulted with regional non-profit organizations, including the CAC.
She is the former director of development for UMass Dartmouth’s Charlton College of Business and the College of Engineering; director of development at the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts (now the SouthCoast Community Foundation); and assistant director of the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board. Stone also served as the executive director of Rebuilding Together Providence, a nonprofit housing and community rehabilitation organization serving disabled residents and their families.
The CAC is in the midst of an expansion of the services it offers. In 2018 the CAC founded the Healing & Resiliency Program (HARP), a long-held dream of treating children and their families on site for trauma-informed counseling. Additionally, the CAC has launched a Drug Endangered Children initiative of training law enforcement, child welfare, probation, and health care staff to help children whose parents or guardians have abused drugs or alcohol.
Last year, the CAC launched the Spreading Our Wings capital campaign to secure a new home for the program. The capital campaign committee is chaired by Michele Roberts of Bristol County Savings Bank.
The CAC has continued to operate during the COVID-19 health crisis serving the most vulnerable among us.
“With schools closed and after-school programs altered for safety reasons, the services provided for children who are sexually abused are ever more critical,” Stone said.