Introducing a new OHCFR Post Series: Career Spotlight! This series will regularly highlight family professionals working in Ohio in a range of positions. To kick us off, we hear from Ms. Jessica Needham, CFLE, who is a Child Abuse Specialist (or Child Victim Advocate) for the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ms. Needham received a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Family Life Education from Kent State University at the Stark Campus in 2013. She is a Certified Family Life Educator and is in the process of becoming a Registered Advocate through the State of Ohio. Prior to her current position as a Child Abuse Specialist (since 2016), Ms. Needham was a Social Worker II for Children Services where she investigated possible cases of child abuse or neglect and helped get children into safer arrangements when needed. In her current role, Ms. Needham works with a team of social workers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates, medical staff, and counselors to determine if cases of child abuse will be prosecuted, and then works with the families in these cases to help them through the process and make sure the children’s voices are heard and needs are met.
Ms. Needham is passionate about this work because she knows that not all kids experience the supportive, safe childhood that she had. In her own words: “Children depend on their family to keep them safe and protect them from bad things happening to them. Some kids can’t depend on their family to protect them…I want these children to know that there is someone out there who believes them, who will help them feel safe, and who will help them have a voice…to know that they have someone standing in their corner and will help them fight through this difficult time in their life. These bad experiences do not have to define who they are. I want to help them move past these bad experiences and rise above them. I want these children to know that I’ll be their voice when they don’t feel like they have one.”
She says that some of the best moments in her job are when she sees a child improving over time. She says “It is great seeing the smile on their face as they hug you telling you that they are happy to see you. It helps to know that despite all the bad things that have happened to them, they are doing better and they are safe. It’s also a great feeling when one of the kids hands you a picture that they have colored and each time they come in they want to make sure you still have their picture in your office. Looking at those pictures helps you realize that you’ve helped one child feel comfortable. I know I won’t be able to help every child but as long as I can help one or two feel better then that’s what matters.”
In her down time, Ms. Needham enjoys spending time with her family and friends, but also appreciates the quiet times that help her recoup after especially rough days. Recently, she’s taken up reading to relax, though work is never far from her mind as the most recent series she’s started stars a female bounty hunter.
Photo credit goes to Joe Albert and the Characters of Canton Facebook page.