Natalie Tibbs is the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County. She is a registered nurse by trade and a busy mother of four, who leads a staff of 16 employees to care for victims of child abuse. When she was in nursing school, Tibbs knew that she didn’t want a traditional nursing role in a hospital or clinic setting, but she wasn’t sure what path her career would take. Tibbs remembers when she found out that the CAC utilized medical providers in their organization. “I think that this is exactly what it is that I’m supposed to be doing,” she said, upon looking into job opportunities with the CAC. She began her career, straight out of nursing school in 2006, as the first full-time forensic nurse that the CAC hired. She spent about a year training as a child advocate and learning how to evaluate children for signs of abuse before moving into a more specialized nursing role with the organization.
Years later, when it came time for the founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County to retire, the board knew who to call on to lead the group forward. Tibbs laughs, “It’s the first time I ever told them no.” However, after further consideration and immersion into an intense leadership program, Tibbs felt ready to step into the new role, where she has been for the past two years.
Tibbs explains that her organization is excited about expanding their staff in the coming year, as there will be a shift in roles internally to open up a new forensic interviewer position. After the changes, the CAC will have its first full-time staff person devoted to educating and training professionals who work with children on a regular basis to be aware of signs of child abuse, how to report the suspected abuse and how to help prevent child abuse.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County opened in January 2000, to provide the community with a resource for children and families who have been impacted by child abuse. The services provided by the CAC alleviates the need to send children into an emergency room setting for exams and evaluation. Because the staff are specially trained to respond in abuse situations, it makes the process easier and less stressful for the children and families involved. Says Tibbs, “We’re giving children a voice. And giving them the opportunity to tell their story in a neutral facility.”
The services provided by the CAC are free to the families who use them, but community support through fundraising helps make that possible. Because 60 percent of their funding comes from fundraising, Tibbs stresses the importance of individual and business support. She says, “It’s critical for our community to understand not only why we exist, but what it is we’re doing.”
Partnerships like the one with First National Bank of Northwest Arkansas are crucial to the success of the organization. Tibbs explains that leadership of FNBNWA approached her with an idea to have children who have used CAC services to create holiday artwork to turn into greeting cards. “We loved the idea,” she adds. The front of the cards feature a child’s artwork, while the back tells the story of the center. Local companies came together to purchase the cards, resulting in a creative and practical way to raise funds to support the center. “Every customer of these local businesses is going to hear about the CAC. The project raised finances and incredible support for what we do,” says Tibbs. It is evident the passion that Natalie Tibbs has for her organization and her work, while she continues to advocate for the children in our community who need it the most. Visit www.cacbentonco.com to see upcoming events, view the center’s wish list or to make a donation to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County.