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Huddleston recognized with national honor

FILE PHOTO: Former Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston (Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune)

Jackson County’s former district attorney has received a volunteer and leadership award from the National Children’s Alliance for more than 30 years of work at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.

Mark Huddleston, who served as DA from 1992-2012, received the NCA’s 2021 Volunteer Leadership Award, stemming from his efforts to improve responses in child abuse investigations, officials said. He did this by helping found the Jackson County Child Abuse Task Force in 1987, which later became the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.

“I’m honored and humbled by the whole experience,” Huddleston said when reached by phone.

He added that he is just one of many parts that makes the organization run.

“It is never a one-person deal. This has always been a team effort,” he said.

Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Tammy Pitzen and the organization’s executive committee nominated Huddleston for the NCA award.

“Mark has been with us throughout our 30-plus years of service,” Pitzen’s nomination letter reads. “Not as a bystander or witness, but up to his elbows in the work as a prosecutor, district attorney, board president, committee chair, fundraiser, volunteer and leader.”

The Jackson County Child Abuse Task Force started with a group of professionals such as teachers, child protective service workers, and law enforcement who dealt with child abuse cases, Huddleston said. At that time, Huddleston worked as a deputy district attorney who specialized in such cases.

The Children’s Advocacy Center grew out of that effort, opening in 1991. It’s a centralized hub intended to reduce the trauma associated with abuse and provide support services for child abuse victims.

The National Children’s Alliance is the accrediting agency for 924 children’s advocacy centers across the country.

“At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not not retraumatize the child,” the NCA website reads. “Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview.”

“The whole idea behind a Child’s Advocacy Center is to change the system to make it work as well as it possibly can for kids who are dealing with abuse,” Huddleston said. “It’s in a setting that’s designed to look like grandma’s house.”

Huddleston continues as a board member at that agency. Currently, the agency’s services include medical, technical assistance, interviewing and investigation, and specialized training.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil.