"We treat a lot of adults and children that have been victims," said Dr. Ward Lawson of Tri-County Psychological Services, Inc., in Marshfield. "It's often a sad story and tragic." 

About 25% of patients that come to the clinic are victims of sex crimes, according to Lawson.

"It's a type of adversity that many children have to deal with during their childhood that is a precursor to mental and/or physical problems," said Lawson.

According to Lawson, patients are given a psychological evaluation as an appropriate treatment plan. It assesses the strengths, resources and weaknesses of the patients.

"One out of five to one out of four people, adults and children, have a mental illness," said Lawson. "This has a great bearing on the patient's capacity and readiness to address the problem, as well as the complexity of the treatment plan and how long it may take to work through the problems."

Lawson explained a doctor of psychology can assess for the presence of a mental illness and then proceed accordingly.

"For example, a child with a very mild illness or no mental illness at all that has been abused could work well with a counselor," said Lawson. "A mentally ill child that has been abused will need a psychologist."

Lawson added, "In most cases, involvement of the family in the therapy is important. Now, in cases when the primary caretakers have a mental illness, then they will need to be assessed and treated as well, or the prognosis for the child is poor."

Patients can set up an appointment with the Tri-County Psychological Services at 417-859-7746.

While they assist victims of domestic and sexual violence, Donna Burks of the Webster County Victim Assistance Program said they direct minors to the Missouri Department of Social Services Family Support Division in Marshfield.

"We do offer counseling, but with minors, we have to go through the Children's Division, just to ensure those individuals get the proper services they need," said Burks. "We do smaller things for them to make them feel good, like working with hair stylists to set up appointments for them if they haven't had a haircut in a while or getting them nice clothes to wear."

Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole said every individual and situation is different, as far as sexual abuse cases.

"When I have a child in those situations, I call the Children's Division to help them," said Cole. "If it turns out to be a case where a child isn't legally in custody, the Children's Division will still help to find out if that child has a school he or she goes to, a counseling service through the school to help them, or another service to assist them." 

Rebecca Woelfel, communications director for the Missouri Department of Social Services, said, "When Children's Division receives a report of alleged sexual abuse and conducts an investigation, children are generally referred to the local Child Advocacy Center for an interview by a trained forensic interviewer professional."

Woelfel explained a decision is also made as to whether a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam-Child Abuse Resource and Education (SAFE-CARE) is performed to ensure the child is physically cared for and evidence collected.

"Ongoing services for children and families are handled on an individual case by case basis and can include referrals to appropriate mental/behavioral professionals," said Woelfel.

Woelfel added the Children's Division does provide an array of services to children and families. This includes Children's Treatment Services, which are provided to families and children to reunify families or keep children in their homes. That service addresses prevention of child abuse and neglect and support of victims in those situations.

The Family-Centered Services focuses on improving and maintaining the family unit for the well-being of children. It is available to all Missouri families and children. The Intensive In-Home Services (IIS) are comprehensive, short-term, home-based, crisis intervention services, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.

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