Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center helps abuse victims and their families overcome trauma
Sara Rezba has been helping child abuse victims for the past nine years as a child advocate at the Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center in Pinckneyville.
“There are so many good things that come with an advocacy center such as watching children learn techniques to help them overcome their trauma, being a strong support in a difficult time in their lives, and on occasion going to court and being there with the families for an outcome they wanted to happen,” Rezba told SW Illinois News. “I believe, though, my team is probably my favorite piece. My office has four employees including a great director that has an open-door policy so if we need to talk she is available for us. The other team members that I work with from other agencies are phenomenal too. We communicate well, help each other with tasks, support each other, and we genuinely care for the well-being of the children we serve. Without these teams I am not sure the families we service would have the outcomes they deserve.”
Rezba began working for the Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center in 2007 as a secretary. She was hired as a child advocate in 2010.
“My first job at the advocacy center sort of fell into my lap,” Rezba said. “I didn’t know what an advocacy center was or even what they did. I already knew the director and had for a number of years. She approached me to see if I wanted to apply for a part-time secretary position. I got hired and have loved the center and its services ever since.”
While Rezba loves her job, she expressed that it can be difficult at times.
“People get uncomfortable talking about abuse and it bothers others knowing it happens to children,” she said.
Rezba’s goal as a child advocate is to help abused children and encourage their parents to be supportive.
“Over the years I have seen the benefits of trauma counseling and encourage families to get involved with it,” she said. “I have been to trainings to educate myself about trauma and how it effects the brain and share that knowledge with the children and families I work with. I would like to see all the children we work with in trauma counseling and have supportive parents that also interact with the services they get.”
Another goal Rezba has is to end the stigma associated with child abuse victims.
“When I talk to strangers about my job the conversation goes in two directions,” she said. “They are victims of abuse and disclose their situation to me or they immediately say that is an awful job they don’t want to know about and will change the subject.”
Rezba teaches a safety curriculum in schools that informs children in pre-K to fifth grade how to recognize unsafe situations, refuse unsafe situations and how to report physical abuse.
“Sadly, I also have to teach children that they may have to tell several different people before someone believes them or before someone can help,” Rezba said. “The more people are aware and see the signs of child abuse the more chances there are of it stopping and the children can get the help they need.”
Rezba has learned a lot in her career as an advocate.
“School doesn’t really give you the training you need to know on how to be a good social worker,” she said. “It has been through trial and error and many trainings to get to a stage where I feel confident that I am doing my best to help the clients we serve. I still feel that I have a lot to learn and pass on to others as well.”
Rezba was born in DuQuoin and currently lives in Pinckneyville. She holds two associate degrees, one in arts and one in science. Prior to joining the Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center, she was a teacher’s aide in a preschool setting at an organization called Archway, which provides services to children with delays. She also worked for an agency called Addus Family Services, which is contracted with the Department of Children and Family Services.
In addition to teaching a safety curriculum in schools, Rezba has presented as part of the center’s involvement with the Career Buffet several times in the past. The event features agencies and business employees talking about their jobs and schooling to show high school students options they have as they go on to college. Rezba also attends interagency meetings and educates others about the center, and discusses how they can work together.
“Most of my time is spent with my three active teenage boys so I don’t volunteer as much as I would like,” Rezba said. “I am a family-oriented person and love spending time with family, especially after a difficult day at work.”