This article is the fourth in a series celebrating Child Advocacy Council’s 40 years of service to the community.  The National Act was passed in 1974 to assure child protection in all states.  In 1976 the Missouri law to establish community groups for the purpose of education and enlisting community support to remedy child abuse and neglect was passed.  Child Advocacy Council was developed as a result of this law.

In its early years, Child Advocacy Council members met with another group already active in the community, the County Welfare Commission.  The purpose of the County Welfare Commission, set up in 1945, was to educate community leaders about welfare programs to help poor or disabled citizens.  It was a logical expectation that the same persons should be aware of the responsibility the agency had to provide services to prevent or remedy abuse and neglect of children.  In fact, some of the members of the County Welfare Commission remained active with Child Advocacy Council after the groups stopped meeting together.

There are no official records of what took place in the early meetings.  In speaking with employees who worked in Camden County at the time, we have learned some of the events and activities that took place.

In 1976, Mari Butterfield was hired by Irene Franklin, county director at the time.  Mari was the only child welfare worker in Camden County.  Mari graduated from Missouri Valley College in 1973 and worked in Jackson County (Kansas City).  She relocated to Linn Creek and transferred to Miller County office (Eldon) where she worked with the food stamp program until accepting the job in Camden County.  Mari described her job as “running all over the county trying to save children.”  It was a difficult job made more difficult by the size and physical problems of locating people in the county.  In addition, this was shortly after the mandate to develop community groups for education about child abuse/neglect, so this too became part of Mari’s job.  She said that due to the heavy workload, one of the volunteers, Barbara Fredholm, was the true leader of the group.  

Mari worked in Camden County until 1982.  By then, there were 3 social workers in the county.  Mari was encouraged by Malou Thomas, a co-worker, to return to college to get a graduate degree.  After graduate school she has continued to work with children and families in a variety of jobs, and now has her own counseling center in Oklahoma.

  One of the other child welfare employees at the time, Malou Thomas, had a Master’s degree in Secondary Education in the field of social science.  She taught in Kansas City, worked as a day care licensing worker (after her first child was born), and taught high school social science before moving to the lake area.  She worked in Morgan County (Versailles) in 1978 and transferred to Camden County office in 1979 to make it easier for her sons to be involved in school activities.  She worked in Camden County until 1986.  

When asked about Child Advocacy Council, Malou said when she began work in Camden County, Mari was using volunteers to provide fun activities for children in foster care.  Together they split up the Child Advocacy Council job duties with Mari arranging activities with volunteers and Malou speaking to community groups to educate the community and recruit volunteers.  Malou remembers speaking to many groups including Kiwanis, Lions, EMTs, teachers, Elks, church groups and others.  In addition, Mari was involved with helping plan summer activities for children and Malou worked with the Christmas is Sharing program.  

During the same time frame that Malou and Mari were working to develop the Council, Malou’s husband, Fenton “Dutch” Thomas, was employed by the University Extension in Camdenton as a Community Development Specialist.  He worked on a community based Crime Prevention Program in Camden County with Sheriff Larry Whitten.  The program included crime prevention, property protection, home security, protection for women, and prevention of drug use.  He and law enforcement staff met with homemaker clubs, senior citizen groups, school classes, PTA groups, and others.  In preparing for these presentations Dutch read a study which directly linked abuse as a child to criminal behavior in adults.  He said, “Since it logically follows that receiving proper and effective parenting in childhood would prevent normal adults from entering a criminal lifestyle, this seemed to be the best way to prevent crime in future years.”  Malou remembers it this way, “Dutch’s part was the nuts and bolts of meeting a community need by facilitating the community, with know-how on organization.”  Dutch helped with the basic formulation of Child Advocacy Council.

While Mari, Malou, and Dutch were working to develop Child Advocacy Council, Joyce Marshall, an employee of Family Services working with the food commodity program, remembers making referrals to the group for Christmas is Sharing, Easter baskets, food for Thanksgiving, and any other needs of families she worked with.  Joyce later was hired as a children’s service worker in the Camden County office, where she worked directly with Child Advocacy Council making those same kinds of referrals.  Joyce left Camden County in 1988 but continues to be involved with families.  She currently works with the Department of Mental Health First Steps Program.  She provides intensive in-home support to families to prevent removal of children from their homes due to drug misuse, neglect, or unsanitary living conditions.

There were many volunteers who became involved with Child Advocacy Council.  One of the most active persons was Margaret Scheiter.  The Scheiter family has a long history of working to help families.  Gene served in the Navy until he retired in 1978.  When they lived in Texas and in Washington D.C., the family provided foster care for 10 children and adopted 2 children who had severe physical and mental disabilities.  These two children later died from the abuse or health problems which caused them to be available for adoption.  After Gene retired, he and Margaret moved to St. James where Gene earned a master’s degree in engineering at Rolla.  Margaret, a registered nurse, worked at the veteran’s home in St. James while Gene attended college.  

Margaret and Gene moved to Camden County in 1980 where Gene worked at University Extension and Margaret was employed at Lake Regional Hospital.  It wasn’t long before the Scheiter’s got involved in the community.  Margaret’s husband, Gene, worked with Dutch at University Extension.  Malou met Margaret and invited her to join the volunteer group which became Child Advocacy Council.  

In the mid 1980’s the Council obtained a grant of $2,000.00 from the Division of Family Services for the purpose of providing in home services to families.  The grant allowed volunteers to be reimbursed for their gas money and some of their costs to visit family’s homes.  Prior to this, social workers were providing these services.  Margaret and Barbara Young, another member, were hired by the council to educate parents to provide proper hygiene, nutrition, and a healthy environment to prevent children being removed from their homes.  

Margaret remembers one such family where there were animal feces in the corner of the living room and an opened jar of mayonnaise on the table.  There was a sliver of a broken mirror being used as a knife to spread the mayonnaise.  The children in the home were sleeping on urine soaked mattresses with no sheets and there were dirty dishes in the sink.  Margaret described her work with the families by saying “They were not always receptive to change.  We approached them as friends.  Many times, people didn’t see their living conditions as a problem, saying this was how they were raised.”  

Margaret and Barbara provided educational services for several years until the Council stopped applying for the grant funding.  During this time the Child Advocacy Council won the Outstanding Volunteer Program Award.  The award was presented by Lieutenant Governor Ken Rothman at an awards dinner in Jefferson City on April 1, 1982.

Margaret remained active in Child Advocacy Council, serving as president of the Council for several years, until poor health caused her to retire.  Margaret also served as a member of the Permanency Planning Team working with Division of Family Services, Juvenile Court staff, and guardian ad litems to help with assuring permanency for children in juvenile court custody.

Barbara Young was another very active member.  Barbara was an employee at Tan-Tar-A resort.  She arranged with management at Tan-Tar-A to provide Christmas parties for children in foster care and their families.  Over the years hundreds of children were able to enjoy a visit from Santa, ice skating, cookies with hot chocolate, and gifts thanks to the benevolence of the community and Tan-Tar-A.  In addition, Tan-Tar-A has been the location of the Child Advocacy Council Trivia Challenge for 24 years.

Another member who helped with the beginnings of Child Advocacy Council and is a long-time supporter of the group is Barbara Fredholm.  Barbara, her husband Bob, and their children Susan and Mike, moved to Camden County in 1976.  Soon after that, she was invited to attend a meeting of the Council by Donna Whiteside, wife of Minister Lee Whiteside of Harper Chapel Methodist Church.  Barbara became a regular member of the group helping to organize many activities.  

Some of Barbara’s memories of Child Advocacy Council were of driving all over the county to pick up children for the Christmas parties at Tan-Tar-A, roller skating and other fun activities.  Other members mentioned the great time all the children had going to the Fredholm’s home at Camelot for swimming parties.  

After being a volunteer with Child Advocacy Council, Barbara was hired as a social service worker at Division of Family Services.  She worked for DFS from 1978, leaving in 1988 for a short period of employment at Division of Probation and Parole.  She returned to Division of Family Services later that year and remained there until she left to work full time with a family owned business.  Barbara was very instrumental in helping us locate other people who have been members of the group over the years.  

Another person who helped Child Advocacy Council was attorney John Walker.  In 1982, John guided Child Advocacy Council in the process of becoming incorporated as a not for profit organization.  Those who signed the initial incorporation papers were Barbara Fredholm, Gwen Coe, Lucia Rider, Kay Pirch, Mary Otto, and Margaret Scheiter.  John has continued to help the Council with questions about legal problems over the years. 

Other volunteer members during the early years, some of whom remain active today and some who are no longer with us, include Janine Bullock, Pastor J. Glenn Sundquist, LaVerne Brunett, Jenny Wiley, Pastor Tim Carson, Sandra Slaughter, Susan McCombs, Pam May, Donna McGowan, Marianette Allen, Linda Daake, Brenda Kenniston, Karen Haupt, Gloria Collins, Jackie Templeton and Brenda Koelling.  There may be many others whom I have neglected to mention, but there are no official records of the early years of the group.  These early members set the groundwork for the organization it is today.

The next article will be about the next phase of the Child Advocacy Council.