top of page
Podcast Transcript

No Voice But Us

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, we're shifting gears this week from talking about Girl Scouts to a much tougher topic.

Marsha Clark  0:29  
Yes, we are, Wendi. It is a much tougher topic. And we're continuing our series spotlighting organizations that are dedicated to supporting women and girls. And today we're exploring the inspiring, but I will also tell you heartbreaking, world and work of children's advocacy agencies. And specifically, we're going to be talking to the CEO of our local Children's Advocacy Center based here in Collin County, Texas. And I want to be totally transparent with our listeners. I'm very personally involved in this organization as a member of the board. The agency itself, and our guest, are both near and dear to my heart. So Lynne McLean, welcome to the podcast.

Lynne McLean  1:09  
Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:12  
Yes. Yes. Welcome, Lynne. And I'm so glad to meet you and have you as our guest today.

Marsha Clark  1:17  
And, Wendi, I do want to add some additional context for our listeners as we get started with today's episode. Our podcasts in the first couple of quarters of 2023 are focused on groups and activities that are outside of my book, if you will, because we focused so much on that in the early podcasts. And that's very intentional. While we're still grounded in the topics that are centered on women supporting women, and in today's case, specifically expanding it to be supportive of girls, we're deliberately bringing in subject matter experts who can help us expand our thinking beyond the typical ways we support women that are in our immediate periphery, our communities, and so on. And so much of what we have covered over the past year and a half has been professional and personal leadership development helping us individually as we navigate our own path to authentic and powerful leadership. And last week's episode with Jennifer Bartkowski and this week with Lynne plus the episodes to come in the upcoming weeks, we're pulling in information programs and thought leaders who really are important and integral members of our communities. And they're not necessarily women that any one of our listeners might interact with on a regular basis. So not only are we inviting in these powerful leaders who are serving women and girls in beautiful ways every day, but we're also inviting our listeners to look for new possibilities in their communities and their worlds, with new ways to engage and discover how they might support women and girls at a really completely different level. There's a lot of ways to contribute and make a difference.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:51  

Marsha Clark  2:52  
And so Lynne, how's that for... why you're here.

Lynne McLean  2:57  
That's very inspiring.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:59  
Very good. Well, Marsha, that was a great add. I mean, whenever a podcast format shifts, it's always a great idea to provide that transparency, especially for longtime listeners and fans, because they kind of get used to a flow and a thing.

Marsha Clark  3:17  
Well, and I just think about not only are the agencies or the organizations that these women lead, they are leaders. So this is about leadership, in addition to the support that they're providing. And I think it just makes intuitive sense to share some of the inner workings, you know, of our quote, unquote,"Master Plan" as we look at how we're bringing so many different thoughts, ideas, possibilities, and people to the table. And we know what the plan is for the trajectory of the podcast, but our listeners don't necessarily see that. And I don't want everyone to worry that we're completely changing our format. And, and in the continued spirit of transparency, I will also tell you that I'm still writing Book Two. I'm 25% of the way through, three chapters complete. And the title is going to be "Expanding Your Power: A Woman's Opportunity to Inspire Teams and Influence Organizations". And our goal is to have that published later this year. And between now and then we're going to continue to interview thought leaders like Lynne and they'll be intermingled with other topics that, Wendi, you and I will do and take some deeper dives. And so now our listeners know what we know.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:21  
Awesome. Love it. Very well done. So thank you, Marsha, for all that backstory. So Lynne, continuing this spirit of transparency, we'd like to provide our listeners with some of your background because we'd like to know how our guests are connected to us. So in this case, how do you and Marsha know each other? How did you meet? What's a little of your backstory? And then Marsha, will you set the stage first on how you met Lynne and got involved with the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County?

Marsha Clark  4:48  
You bet. So a wonderful man that I worked with in my EDS days. His name was Frank Stanisic. He introduced me to this organization and to Lynne. And Frank had asked me to be on the board several years ago, and I was doing a lot of heavy global traveling at the time, and I just wouldn't have been able to attend very many meetings. And so anyone who knows me also knows that I won't say yes until I can be all in and fully commit. And in 2018, when I, quote unquote, "retired my passport", I was able to really commit the time, the energy, the focus, and I've been a board member since then. And of course, I've met Lynne through joining the board and I now have a really bird's eye view, if you will, of the work Lynne and her team do. And it is one of the best run organizations I've had the privilege to work with. And so much of that is due to Lynne's leadership.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:38  
Wow. Lynne, did you have any idea how much of a firecracker you were getting when Marsha walked in the door?

Lynne McLean  5:44  
I don't think I could have. Yeah, I think I knew that she was pretty amazing, but I don't think I could have known just how amazing she was. And I have to tell you one other thing. I had so much respect for her from the very first time we met. I did a tour of the Center for her because she was, we were, she was interested in being a board member and wanted her to understand the depth and value of what we do. Also talked with her about the responsibilities of a board member. And she told me she was really interested in serving on the board but that currently her schedule was so busy, she wouldn't have the time that she needed to devote to it. She said she would have time in a year. When one year was up, she contacted me and completed the process to become a board member, which was amazing. (Yeah...) She's clearly passionate about the work that we do, but she wasn't going to make a commitment that she was not going to be able to keep. But once she made that commitment she's all in.

Marsha Clark  6:40  
That's right. That's right. Been planning the retirement of that passport for a while.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:46  
Yeah. So Marsha, it's not like you didn't already have a full plate at that time you decided to get involved with the Advocacy Center. What was it about that group, that mission that has kept you so engaged and committed?

Marsha Clark  6:59  
Well, first of all, it is one of the best run organizations I know. Lynne, I really mean that. And you know, as a person who values respects and supports women and girls, this is an organization that represents the ugly parts of what some womens' and girls' traumas, mistreatments, and heartbreaks have been. And I wanted to be a part of an organization who was addressing these real atrocities in some kind of meaningful way. And there are lots of agencies out there that support families and girls and veterans and homeless and all of that, and my heart goes out to them. This is the part where it's ugly, and it takes special people to do this work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:40  
Yeah, well, before we deep dive into Lynne and learning about the success at the Children's Advocacy Center, I want to diverge just a little bit. And this question is for both of you. For anyone who's looking for ways to either apply their leadership skills or maybe develop and hone some of their leadership skills, why would you recommend volunteering on a nonprofit board as a way to do that?

Marsha Clark  8:06  
Yeah, if I may, Lynne. You know I'm also involved in 5050 Women on Boards, so we're trying to get more women on boards in a big way. But the bottom line for me is that we need women at the table when big decisions are being made and when strategies are being set. And there are so many nonprofit organizations that provide that opportunity. And as a board member, just in a more I would call it even academic sense, you have to learn how to wield influence without necessarily having the authority to dictate or mandate. These are voluntary jobs, right. And they aren't going to do it just because you said so. And so you also learn a ton about governance. And you know, these experiences aren't always available to everyone until you reach pretty senior levels in many large for profit organizations. So it's a way to learn that in a different setting but still with lots of similarities. So you learn a lot. You also learn a ton about your community and you get the privilege and the responsibility to support something near and dear to your heart.

Lynne McLean  9:07  
Yeah, and I want people to remember that just like businesses, nonprofits are always in need of board members with a wide variety of skills, like accounting, legal expertise, HR expertise, community relations, marketing, cybersecurity. I mean, oftentimes the person who is the CEO, not always, but is the social worker. (Right.) And so you need a variety of people who have a lot of different kinds of skills. And as a board member, you bring the skills you have to that nonprofit. You get to help that nonprofit grow into a stronger organization. And you also have multiple opportunities to grow your leadership skills by serving on committees, leading committees, being a board officer. There's as much opportunity as you want to take advantage of.

Marsha Clark  9:52  
That's right.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:52  
Yeah, absolutely agree. So Lynne, your path to leadership as the CEO of the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center wasn't necessarily crystal clear to you from the beginning, as I understand it. And so will you share a little bit how your journey began?

Lynne McLean  10:09  
Yeah, that's certainly true. I went to UTA and got a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in social work. And I always knew I wanted to help children. But throughout my college years, I always said I would do anything but work in the field of child abuse. I would work with the elderly, I would work in schools, I would work with teenagers. Social workers have a lot of broad opportunity, but I wouldn't do child abuse. I just thought it would be too heartbreaking. I want to bring the kids home. I couldn't imagine how I could do it. And God laughed.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:09  
Yeah, you make plans, God laughs.

Lynne McLean  10:44  
The reality was that when I got my master's degree, I was 24 years old with no professional work experience and very little life experience. And I was working at the Safeway where I had worked all the way through college. And I spent five months looking for a social work job and no one would hire me. CPS was hiring, Child Protective Services, in Dallas was hiring. And so I decided I could go work there for a couple years, I could get some experience under my belt, and then I could go on and help children some other way. I started as a CPS investigator, which means that if you called in a report of a child you were concerned about being abused or neglected, I was the person who knocked on the door. And in pretty short order, I fell in love with the power of the work. And I ended up being at CPS for 14 years of worker and then a supervisor and then a program director. And much to my surprise, it became my life's work.

Marsha Clark  11:38  
And Lynne, I love your turn of the phrase you say you fell in love with the power of the work. So tell us more about that.

Lynne McLean  11:45  
Yeah, and I don't mean the power of the state. I mean the power of knowing that I was making a difference in a child's life every single day, no matter how hard the work was. I was making a difference in a child's life every day.

Marsha Clark  11:58  
And I just think about that, to me, is a purpose driven life, right? You knew how you were, what you were meant to do here on this earth and you were doing it.

Lynne McLean  11:59  
Yeah. I love that. Very lucky.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:02  
Now, Lynne, you said you were there for 14 years and it sounds like you were doing pretty well advancing in your career there. So what changed?

Lynne McLean  12:20  
Well, since this is a podcast about authentic, powerful leadership I will be real honest here and tell you that what changed was that I got a bad boss.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:29  
Oh, God.

Marsha Clark  12:30  
It happens everywhere.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:33  
It does. You're all happy and then that person walks in. So tell us about that.

Lynne McLean  12:37  
Yeah, so I had a boss who did everything you're not supposed to do as a manager. She would praise you privately and criticize you publicly. She would take credit for other people's work. She was quick to accuse and degrade my team. She'd burst into my office saying, "Let me tell you what one of your caseworkers did today." And I would say "How do you know that?" And she would say "Somebody called me." And I would say "Do you think we should maybe talk to the worker and get the full story here?" And so it was very challenging.

Marsha Clark  13:09  
Well, and I just want to throw, you know, a general comment about leadership. We often learn as much from bad bosses as we do good bosses and I never want to be that boss. (Yes, yes.) And then I think there was something else around the same time that was happening as that bad boss came in, Lynne. Is that right?

Lynne McLean  13:27  
Well, yeah, I was invited to apply as a Program Director at Child and Family Guidance Center, which is a local nonprofit in Dallas. And I decided to leave. And the sad thing was that I loved my team. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the mission. But it was a toxic environment and I needed to go

Marsha Clark  13:48  
Yeah, and I'm curious, because we previously have done some podcast on managing your career with intentionality. And we talk about running away from versus running towards something. And I'm curious if you'd not been invited to apply to this Child and Family Guidance Center nonprofit, how long do you think you would have stayed at Dallas CPS in that environment? And again, I asked, so much of the research even today shows that women tend to remain in toxic environments way past the healthy point, that's why I have a coaching clientele, and whether it's a toxic environment at work or toxic relationships. So I mean, you work in the world of toxicity. So what do you think?

Lynne McLean  14:26  
Yeah, that is such a great question. I actually think I probably would have stayed. I loved the work. And I loved the team. I don't think I was really aware of the strengths and skills that I had that I could take to another organization. So when someone invited me to apply it was like a door. And I was like, maybe I should step through that door.

Marsha Clark  14:53  
It is such a common story that I hear again and again and again. "Who, me? I have the skills? You want me?" All of that. And so it is something that I invite our listeners to think of if you are working in one of those toxic environments for whatever reason, the boss, the culture, the company, the peers, the customer, whatever it may be, really give yourself grace to get the heck out of there. And call us. We'll help you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:21  
Exactly. So Lynne, back to your personal timeline. I'm assuming you left Dallas CPS. Did you move to the nonprofit that reached out to you like, where did you go next?

Lynne McLean  15:31  
I did. I went to Child and Family Guidance Center and it was so liberating. In the nonprofit side of the work, I figured out that if you had a really creative idea about how to help people, and if you could figure out how to fund it, you could do it.

Marsha Clark  15:43  
That's the way it goes.

Lynne McLean  15:44  
And that was very liberating. And so my first foray with the Child and Family Guidance Center was a child abuse prevention and parenting program, which was really fun. And then after a few years, I was invited to apply as executive director of a small nonprofit called Community Partners of Dallas. It was a public private partnership. And we were, our goal was really to meet the unmet needs of children in the CPS system. CPS doesn't have enough money and will never have enough money to meet all the needs of the children. So one of the most successful initiatives we have that went on to be a statewide program with the help of Laura Bush was our Rainbow Room, which is an emergency resource center which is stocked with supplies for children, shoes, socks, underwear, baby formula, car seats, all the things children need. And it's not just infants and toddlers who are served by the program. Even now, community partners of Dallas is serving all ages. The age breakdown last year was 43% for ages zero to three, 33% for ages four to nine, and 24% for ages 10 to 19. So that's a full range. So after working at Community Partners of Dallas for three years, I went on to be the executive director of Greater Texas Community Partners working to replicate this program around the state of Texas.

Marsha Clark  16:59  
You know, Lynne, I really appreciate your sharing some of those statistics. And I find that most people, you know, unless they've actually required the services of a local advocacy center, or maybe have volunteered, they really don't have an idea about the age range that's supported by programs such as these. And our heart breaks, oftentimes for the babies and the young ones, but gosh, how hard is it when you're 16 or 19 or whatever. And I think it's also helpful and relevant to share not just the ages of the children being served, but to also note that predominantly these children, it's women, single mothers, mothers escaping domestic abuse situations, mothers recovering from addiction, which is often the way that you deal with toxic situations. And those are the people who are in the most need for the services for themselves and their children. And I'm wondering, I read a lot and I hear all these things. But is that your professional experience as well?

Lynne McLean  17:51  
Not only is it my professional experience, but the statistics support that. There's no shortage of need out there and that's one reason why working with community partners of Dallas was so rewarding. Finding creative ways to help children and support the community as well as building up and supporting the caseworkers who do this painful, difficult work was very rewarding.

Marsha Clark  18:12  
I have such great respect for the people who can do this work. And I'm guessing you must have gone through quite a deliberate, you know, discernment process, if you will, for you to step away from that Greater Texas Community Partners to then move to our Children's Advocacy Center here in Collin County, and, you know, especially since this time you weren't simply trying to leave a toxic environment.

Lynne McLean  18:32  
No, I actually was not looking for a job at all. I was happy where I was. But I was invited to apply as Executive Director, or CEO of the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County. And I had a lot of experience, although I had never run an agency that large before. And I didn't know Collin County, which I had been Dallas County, so that was very different. But I had removed children, I had worked with children in the civil and criminal court system, I had managed to, you know, work with the Board of Directors, raised money, etc. I thought, well, I'll throw my hat in that ring. And I have to tell that I told my husband that I had been invited to apply and that I was going through the interview process, he was like, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Because it was a real risk for me to take that on. But there were a couple of really key drivers that motivated me to take the leap. The first was that this role would allow me and enable me to get back connected to direct service. And I didn't realize how much I'd been missing that. And then to be honest, I was in my mid 50's at the time and I didn't want to simply slide into retirement without taking another risk. And I thought, you know, I may fail. I may not be able to do this because this job is much bigger than where I am right now. But I don't want to slide to retirement without taking another risk.

Marsha Clark  19:58  
The courage that it takes to do this work, the courage to make that decision because I mean, what is it? I'm scared and I'm doing it anyway. That's kind of the definition of bravery and courage. And so, you know what you're describing, Lynne, to me, it relates to the work that we all, I mentioned it earlier, it's the calling and the purpose. And, you know, when I think about the term calling, it's a role that plays to our strengths. And clearly the work that you have done throughout your adult life is plays to your strengths, and a calling shifts to a purpose when we apply those strengths to our passion. And you knew early on that you wanted to work with people in a supportive, loving, caring, helping way. And certainly the role you're in today does seem a lot like you're living your purpose.

Lynne McLean  20:38  
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I feel strongly that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. And the mission of the Children's Advocacy Center is bigger than me. Yes, it's bigger than all of us. But I get to be part of it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:51  
Well, Lynne, for many of our listeners, including me, who may not be familiar with the work that's provided by a typical children's advocacy center, will you share what goes on there?

Lynne McLean  21:04  
Sure. I mean, there will definitely be different levels of service in children's advocacy centers throughout the country but to be an officially credited children's advocacy center, you have to meet certain standards. In Texas, we have state standards that you have to meet. There are also national standards that you have to meet. And so you can't just hang up a shingle or say, I'm an advocacy center. This is a model that is consistent throughout the country in terms of the components that it has to address issues related to child abuse, and to help children and families. And for those that are numbers oriented, there are 939 children's advocacy centers in communities throughout the United States, including 34 countries abroad. And collectively, those advocacy centers served 386,191 children last year. So a big impact, not just in Texas or in Plano, but throughout the country.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:04  
Wow. So then what did the numbers look like here locally in Collin County?

Lynne McLean  22:10  
So in the past 30 years, we've provided services to 75,000 children and family members. Just last year, we provided services for 3,888 total clients in 2021. And of those 2,300 were children. Overall, we provided 26,000 total services to children and families last year.

Marsha Clark  22:33  
And I want to hear more about that. But I also just want to point out, Collin County is often seen as one of the most affluent counties in Texas and you would think, "Oh, these things don't happen here". And to me, I remember the first time I went to The Family Place and you know, learned about domestic abuse. It was when I was first starting to do work with women. And they tell me, you know, two out of five households, and I went to and stood on my back porch, and I lived in a place where I had broad vision to a lot of houses, and I kind of just went 1234...12. And you know, just thought within my visibility from my backyard, how many places that could be going on in my backyard, right? And so I just look at that and I think about this work. And it's everywhere. It crosses all socio economic lines, all kinds of countries, ethnic, religion, and everything else. And that to me, that the pervasiveness of them is yet an emphasis on why this work is so important. So you talked about some different kinds of services. Will you explain what those statistics, why they're different and, you know, what's the difference between a client and a child and that sort of thing?

Lynne McLean  23:47  
Sure. So in addition to serving children, we also provide services to the non offending family members. So the parents, the grandparents, siblings, anyone in the family, because we know that when abuse happens, it doesn't just impact the child, it impacts the whole family. And it's also true that in order to help a child heal, you have to work with the parents. (Right.) So we work with... we offer services to all.

Marsha Clark  24:10  
Yeah, and I think you also have some statistics on the breakdown of children served based on gender. And since we focus on girls, can you share that information?

Lynne McLean  24:19  
Sure. Um, 62.5% of the children served by our agency were female last year and 37.5% male. And the thing to remember about that, though, is that abuse against males is tragically underreported. All forms of abuse, it's tragically underreported.

Marsha Clark  24:36  
And for our listeners, I mean, we've talked about this. So what why do you think that is?

Lynne McLean  24:40  
I think it's the societal stigma of being viewed as a victim, which is very unmasculine. It's very, it's always hard for children to tell anyone about abuse, but for males I think it's like the idea of them being vulnerable and victimized. It's just more difficult.

Marsha Clark  24:57  
The thought that comes into my mind, you know, we have all these stories about the big bad world is going to come get us. And I think, again, statistically, the work shows that most of this abuse is from someone we know, not some stranger on the street, not some immigrant coming across the border, you know. It happens in the families and in the neighborhoods.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:19  
And it's passed down.

Marsha Clark  25:20  
And it's passed down. That's right. And so I think that's another important thing to note about some of this. And if I'm the masculine male and Big Boys Don't Cry and all the messages I get.. And I'm not going to admit that some body was able to do that to me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:39  
Well, Lynne, you mentioned a moment ago that in 2021 you provided 26,585 total services. What did those services include?

Lynne McLean  25:49  
Well, our services really bring our overall mission to life, which I'm sure we share with virtually every other children's advocacy center out there, just in different words. We envision a community free from child abuse. We provide hope to children and families victimized by abuse. Our proven approach brings experts together under one roof to ensure safety, healing and justice for children victimized by abuse.

Marsha Clark  26:14  
And I just want to emphasize those three words, safety first, and if things have happened, to help them heal, and the justice to bring the perpetrators to task and to accountability. And there's so much behind all of those words. So maybe start with those highest levels of service, Lynne, if you'll share that.

Lynne McLean  26:32  
Of course. So we have a multidisciplinary team of service providers who are all housed in one building. And we are highly integrated and collaborative so that when a child comes in for support and services, they can come through one door and receive all the services they need to heal and go on to lead healthy, happy lives. The multidisciplinary team housed at our center includes child protective services, law enforcement, social workers, therapists, medical professionals, and we also work collaboratively with the district attorney's office. So typically, our involvement with the child begins at the initial investigation where we conduct a forensic interview. These are children who are alleged victims of abuse or neglect that have been reported. The forensic interviewer works for the children's advocacy center, so they don't work for CPS, they don't work for law enforcement. So they're neutral. And they do not know the specifics of the case when they sit down to talk to a child so there's no danger of putting words in a child's mouth. The interview's conducted in a room where through a closed circuit TV, law enforcement and CPS watch the interview real time. This means that all the members of the team received the same information at the same time, and the child doesn't have to tell their story multiple times to multiple professionals both then and over time.

Marsha Clark  27:51  
And, Lynne, if I can interject just a bit because they relive the trauma every time they say the story, and so to minimize reliving that trauma again and again, this multidisciplinary approach and one time all together is huge.

Lynne McLean  28:05  
It's absolutely huge. And before there was such a thing as children's advocacy centers, that didn't exist. So they did have to tell their story multiple times and the system was re-traumatizing children on top of what they've already been through, right? So just this approach, it doesn't mean the child never has to tell their story again if the case goes to criminal trial. It means those people coming into the case, even in later years, can watch the initial investigation video and know what happened. So we then, we assign a family advocate to the case who will stay with the case, stay not only with the child, but also with the family and provide support throughout the process.

Marsha Clark  28:46  
Anyone who sits there, because you tell us a story at every board meeting and we get to hear the reality of where it went from the beginning to how it ended. And I think too, for our listeners, I didn't know what a forensic interview was. So can, that's a specialty. You have to go to school to get trained to be a forensic interviewer. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Lynne McLean  29:07  
It is a very specific kind of interviewing technique that helps children feel comfortable but it's focused on fact finding. And they basically, they have to sit down with a child they don't know, build enough rapport, that that child feels comfortable talking about something that's not easy to talk about, and then gather all of the issues related to safety and risk to the child as well as all the elements of the criminal offense and do it without ever asking a leading question. (Right.)So they go through like four, four levels of training in our state before they actually do forensic interviews because it's not something you learn in graduate school. This is a very niche specific kind of technique that's been perfected and been researched and all of those things.

Marsha Clark  29:55  
Yeah. And I just think about having to build trust with that child to get them to open up and tell you the real truth. And so can you share some of the actual statistics of who the offenders in most of these cases are? I touched on it a moment ago.

Lynne McLean  30:09  
Yeah, I mean, it's it's heartbreaking anytime that a child is abused, but it's surprising to many people when they discover who the offenders are most of the time. Out of the 946 alleged offenders that came to our center last year, 16 were strangers. The rest were known to the child.

Marsha Clark  30:29  
930 were known.

Lynne McLean  30:33  
They were either people that were in the child's immediate family or someone else, a coach or a teacher or someone else that the child knew. And so 85% of the offenders were male, and 23% were juveniles under the age of 18. One of the things I will say having been in this (it's hard to say this out loud) been in this field for 40 years, is that you cannot tell by looking at someone who might harm a child. You simply cannot tell. You think you can, but you can't.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:01  
I have to jump in real quick. Only 23% were juveniles under the age of 18?

Lynne McLean  31:08  
Those are offenders. 23% of offenders.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:10  
Oh. Got it. Those were offenders. Sorry. I'm so...

Lynne McLean  31:14  
Not only adults, we also deal with juveniles.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:17  
That's a pretty big percent.

Lynne McLean  31:20  
It's a pretty big percent.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:20  

Marsha Clark  31:20  
So this whole myth that strangers are the greatest danger to children is simply that. It's a myth. And, you know, that doesn't mean that children shouldn't be taught stranger danger, and, you know, content and strategies for protecting themselves. But for so many families who come through the doors of the children's advocacy center, they're being victimized by someone they know, someone in their homes. And in fact, the first time I saw this on the website, you know, I felt such a gut punch in the language that you use is, in fact, 90% of child abuse victims know, love and trust their abusers. And our regular listeners will recognize that know, love and trust phrase because I use it all the time to describe my circle of longtime, you know, lifetime friends that I have and people that I count on. So to read it in a very different context was, it really was like a knife twist.

Lynne McLean  32:13  
Yeah, I bet it was. And you know, it's one of those reasons why those family advocacy support services we offer and that we provide are so critical, especially in the circumstance where the abuser may be the family's primary breadwinner because if they're arrested and taken to jail, the family goes from a two parent income to one or one to zero overnight, probably the time of the greatest crisis of your life. And so providing those, those short term and long term supports for children and their parents really makes a difference. And we provide those resources in the community and support from the beginning of the case all the way through the completion of the criminal process.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:56  
So that was going to be my next question. How long does it usually take for a case to work itself through the judicial system?

Lynne McLean  33:04  
It takes two or more years for a case to go to trial. So the family support is really a huge service that we provide. We do everything from counseling, keeping the family informed of the process, providing assistance with tangible needs, such as food, clothing, employment, transportation, helping them be able to navigate this new future that they have. And we also help families access needed resources. I want to add one more important service that we provide. We're the only agency in our community offering services critical to healing free for life. No charge for our services ever. And this includes the full range of therapeutic services, including art therapy, play therapy, music therapy, individual therapy, group therapy. All of those services are offered for life.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:55  
So what's an example of somebody who would need that?

Lynne McLean  33:59  
Yeah, so trauma, whether it's sexual assault, physical abuse, or any kind of abuse can come back and impact someone years after the injury. It is something that can impact you throughout your life.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:10  
Yeah, you can get triggered by almost anything... a smell, a sound.

Lynne McLean  34:15  
Absolutely. And so, you know, we may be working with an eight year old child who is a victim of sexual assault, and we do all the things we know we need to do for an eight year old to help them to address the impact of abuse on them and the symptoms and impact that they may have experienced and we're ready to terminate therapy. But we know when that child gets to be a teenager, those issues will likely come back. When they're thinking of getting married or maybe having their own children, those issues will come back. And so we want to make sure that our clients are supported for as long as they need us. It does two things. It helps us be, we are part of their healing journey. And we've been there for 30 years. They can always come back and clients do come back. But we're also helping them be safe parents for their own children.

Marsha Clark  34:59  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:02  
You're stopping the cycle.

Lynne McLean  35:04  
That's exactly right.

Marsha Clark  35:06  
Well, and for our listeners, I do want to say this and something that I picked up on and did some study on. One of the things I teach in helping leaders know if one of their employees comes in and is upset, or whatever it may be that, you know, tell them you want to support them, put the Kleenex in front of them, get them a glass of ice water, all of those things. Do not touch them because something about the when I am at my most vulnerable and people have touched me, and that has put me in, in some cases, to a place of vulnerability. And we just don't know what their stories are, and whether we're adding to the trauma. And what I know for myself is that I want to put my arms around and hug them but that's more about me than it is about them, you know, or as much about me and what I'm trying to do on behalf of them. So even that vulnerable place and as you said, maybe, you know, I've been wary of anyone coming or getting close to me since this happened to me at eight years old. And as you said, now, I'm a teenager, and I want to date, but how do you date because this touch means something very different to me. And that's how this gets, that's the need for lifetime support.

Lynne McLean  36:16  
Exactly right.

Marsha Clark  36:16  
So Lynne, I also want to be sure that we share one of the other unique programs that the Collin County Center offers because I think it's groundbreaking and perhaps could be helpful for other organizations to replicate. You have what is called the Kids in Court Program. And I know that you've had some incredible success with it when it comes to the overall conviction rate when cases make it all the way to the trial. And as you said, you've got the multidisciplinary team in the District Attorney's offices there. And, you know, clearly they have to be involved to make all of this happen. So will you provide our listeners with an overview of what that program is all about?

Lynne McLean  36:54  
Oh, sure. And since you brought it up, Marsha, last year the Collin County District Attorney's office with the support of our multidisciplinary team at the center, had a 95% conviction rate. (Wow.) And that protects our children, and it protects your children, protects our community as well. So the Kids in Court Program is literally, it's like a mock trial that we set up in partnership with our agencies. We bring children and parents to a courtroom in Collin County. And we have folks who volunteer in all the roles. So you have real judge, real defense attorney, real prosecutor, real bailiff, all those things. We have board members that sit in the jury. And it's an opportunity really for children to experience what a courtroom is like. Our purpose is not witness prep. We don't talk about the cases at all, is only to help desensitize them so that they understand that it's not like what they might have seen on TV. We want them to understand what the process is like.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:00  
Yeah, I can only imagine how scary it would be for a child to have to testify. I mean, especially again, if it's someone that I know, love and trust. And this is an opportunity to at least get the child to acclimated to the space, where the people are going to sit, the room. That must be such a comfort to them.

Lynne McLean  38:19  
Well, it is. I mean, I don't know if either of you have ever had to testify in court, (No.) but it's terrifying if you're an adult. It was terrifying..terrifying if you're an adult. Imagine being seven and you're looking across at that person. And so what's interesting about attending Kids in Court and I think, have you attended yet?

Marsha Clark  38:39  
That's the one thing I have not done.

Lynne McLean  38:40  
Okay, so it's still on your list. (Yes.) But it's really interesting when I go to those because the tension when you first get there, the tension is so thick in the room you could cut it with a knife. Both the parents and the kids. And as the night goes on, you can just feel it dissipate. And my team tells me that you can really tell a difference when a child testifies in court if they've been to Kids in Court or if they haven't. They can really tell a difference.

Marsha Clark  39:08  
Yeah. Well, I've been a jury member in Dallas and in Denton County, but because that's where I lived before I moved in the last three years, right there on the line between Denton and Collin. But anyway, and every courtroom is different, and so to go into one that when I walk in, I know who's who and what's what, and all of that stuff because I agree with you. Not only is it scary to have people sitting up high with black robes on people, you know, all of that, but I'm having, that perpetrator or alleged perpetrator is sitting right there and staring you down. I mean, that's what I think about, and how intimidating and overwhelming and just freezing, you know. I would freeze over that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:51  
Yeah. Well, Lynne, I know on your website that you offer community outreach and education opportunities, which I'm assuming is pretty much, you know, every other child advocacy center around the country offers that also. What does your outreach and education include here locally?

Lynne McLean  40:08  
Yeah. So communication, outreach and education are critical to help us get ahead of child abuse. We really want to slow down the number of children coming through our doors. So we want to help people understand how to recognize signs of abuse and the process to report. We also offer internet safety training for both children and adults because it's huge. Children are far more vulnerable online than they realize and parents don't always know how to keep their children safe online. And so we offer a lot of education on those particular topics. We spend a lot of time in the community. We present to PTA's, Rotary Clubs, networking meetings. We do Lunch and Learns at area businesses. We will almost go anyplace, anytime we help people understand how to keep children safe. And it also enables us to tell our story to people who may not know about our mission and the work that we do. And that can always be helpful.

Marsha Clark  41:05  
Yeah, and I want to, we were talking before we started recording this podcast. I want to let our listeners know, it is often the school that is the first to recognize and report it. So educating our schools on what to look for, and that sort of thing is huge. And I know during COVID y'all even created a way that children could talk with you because when they're at home and whatever it is, 85% of the people are living in the home that are the perpetrators, I mean, now I'm totally vulnerable and totally at risk.

Lynne McLean  41:39  
And so the teachers really worked on staying connected with children virtually during that time because when the pandemic hit and the schools closed, reports went down by 40%, not because abuse wasn't happening but because the children didn't have a safe place and a safe person to tell. (That's right.) And the teachers were aware of that too. And so they were very proactive in trying to do the best they could to stay on top of what was going on with kids who are in their own home. And and I have to say, sadly, that when the schools opened up the report shot through the roof. We did more forensic interviews in those two months than we've ever done in the history of our Center.

Marsha Clark  42:18  
Are there other times of the year because I've always heard about partner abuse, domestic partner abuse goes up during the holidays when the drinking goes up and time off goes up and you know, you're at home more often and things.  Is that true with child abuse?

Lynne McLean  42:33  
Well, you know what? This is purely anecdotal. What I've seen in the many years that I've been doing this work is that reports peak in September, October. And I think that's because that's when schools start. And by, you know, if they start in late August, by mid September teachers know kids, kids know teachers. They feel more comfortable telling someone. So September, October, they peak and then again in April and May. And that's when schools are fixing to let out. So you have two things. You may have teachers who've been worried about a child, but they know that kid's going to be home all summer and so they find out more about what's going on. Or you have a child who hasn't told, but they know they're going to be home all summer.

Marsha Clark  43:15  
And now they're desperate, almost, if I could use that word.

Lynne McLean  43:19  
Exactly. So that's what I see anecdotally.

Marsha Clark  43:22  
So, Lynne, one question that when people find out I'm involved in this is that I get people asking me how can I volunteer. And you know, maybe they have the resources to donate, become a sponsor or maybe they don't, but they can still want to find a way to invest in the mission and, you know, offer up their time. So how can people volunteer with the Advocacy Center?

Lynne McLean  43:42  
Yeah, there are a lot of different ways to help. We have volunteers that help with office tasks. You know, given the nature of what we do, everyone has to pass the background check to be able to do that. But you know, we have clerical tasks just like everybody else does. And so it's really helpful to take that burden off some of our staff. And then we have had teams of people from civic groups and corporations that come and do service projects around our facility, do landscaping, painting. And people may not think about this, but we have to spend money on that. And so that takes resources away from the children we serve. So if we have teams coming in to do landscaping, that means that's more resources we can put into the services we provide. So those projects are really helpful. And another way people can help is to to do supply drives. We have folks who do drives for our Rainbow Room, collect pajamas, collect baby formula, collecy shoes. And we have, as you know, a school fair where people collect school supplies. All of those things are really helpful.

Marsha Clark  44:44  
Well, and I want to say too, you know, I've seen organizations, companies up there where people are putting bicycles together for the bicycle drive, the backpack drive, and, you know, I've been there to help kids come get their first pair of shoes for school. You know, and you're helping them figure out, just the amount of shoes that are required and all the different kinds, and they can't just be your throwaways, they have to be... I mean, you want them to walk! It's a lot.

Lynne McLean  45:09  
It's a reflection of the child's value. So you want them to have new, cool stuff.

Marsha Clark  45:13  
That's right. And then they also do a whole Christmas store for, again, the families that can't afford that and they get to come in. And you know, they've got the list of their children and the ages, and we have the toys divided by all of that. And, you know, what I will also say is that the older children kind of get forgotten. They do that as well. And so, you know, I did something this year and said go on to Amazon. Here's the list of things, and you can do it that way, too. So there's a lot of different ways that people... that really aren't hard.

Lynne McLean  45:40  
Yes, right. Exactly. If you want to help, you can find a way.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:42  
Yeah. And I'm sure that the volunteers that are involved with you,  Lynne, I mean, they've got to have so much satisfaction knowing that they're making a difference. (Absolutely.) And Lynne, volunteering isn't just for the grownups, right? So talk to us a little bit about how kids can even volunteer.

Lynne McLean  45:59  
Yeah, it's really inspiring. And so we've had children, a couple of different things. But we've had children who have chosen to forego presents for themselves on their birthdays and instead, had people bring things for the Rainbow Room, which is always very inspiring to me. And then another example I have to give is actually, Marsha's granddaughter, Georgia, who came up with an idea to do Lego jars for children. And so she raised the money, and she got the Legos and she ended up creating 250 Lego jars for another nonprofit called Babies for Booties, and 150 for the Children's Advocacy Center. It was a really creative way to do something that was like portable, that children could take with them and something for them to do with their hands, particularly if they're anxious or nervous, or whatever. It was a very creative way to help. So children can help too.

Marsha Clark  46:52  
And for our listeners account, here's how Georgia came up with this idea. Her brother was sticking Legos into a, like a water bottle. And that's how the idea got born. But I loved what my son and daughter in law did. She had to put a budget together. So she had to do research to find out how much the jars would cost, how much the Legos would cost, you know, and I mean, I was never so proud of her in the giving aspect of all of that, and then all the skills that she learned in the process, as well as the feel good. I mean, and she's continued to do service and support kinds of things.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:31  
That's so awesome.

Marsha Clark  47:33  
Proud Mimi moment.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:34  
Yeah, exactly. Well, Lynne, as we wrap up, we usually like to close with some kind of, with key takeaways. But maybe in your case, I think it's more important as a final thought that you want to leave with everyone. Do you have something like that? And definitely, please give where we can contact you and get involved.

Lynne McLean  47:53  
Absolutely. So here's the bottom line, we teach children through our education programs to tell a trusted adult when they're being hurt. And then we tell them, if that person doesn't listen to you or believe you, keep telling them or someone until someone believes you. It is very rare for children to make up stories of child abuse. So for those of you that are listening, be that adult who listens and believes. If a child tells you there's something wrong, that someone's hurting them, believe them and then report it. Don't try to become your own CSI private investigator. Don't quiz the child about all the details. Let the professionals do their job. They can determine what the facts of the situation are. Children have no voice but ours. And it's up to all of us to keep children safe.

Marsha Clark  48:47  
You know, again, I get, I just, I have chills all over my body right now. But I mean, when I hear about those things, that 'be that adult who listens and believes' I mean, I just can't reinforce that enough. And, you know, Lynne, I just want to thank you for being here today. And there's a lot of powerful and compelling stories that can be told. And I hope our listeners understand not only what the Center in Collin County does, but what resources are needed to be an effective. And I want to give a shout out to the Center. What is the award that you've gotten for like 12 years in a row? (Charity Navigator?) Charity Navigator, and only 3% of nonprofits get this. And if that doesn't tell you the power...

Lynne McLean  49:31  
We've been rated as 4 stars on Charity Navigator for 12 years in a row, which is the nation's leading charity evaluator.

Marsha Clark  49:38  
That's right. And so, you know, clearly here in Collin County it's a well run organization. But that can be true in many more places. So if you are a person who wants to help those who have no voice and who need adults to listen and believe, and to provide the support to help those families...or the sole breadwinner is absent from the family, to help keep them afloat. So there's lots of ways that people can get involved.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:09  
Well, Lynne, thank you so much for being with us today and introducing all of us to the world of the children's advocacy centers. The URL for Collin County Children's Advocacy Center is and please go online. See how you can give, donate, volunteer. Get your own children involved in this organization as well.

Marsha Clark  50:34  
Yeah, let them be able to see not everybody has the life they have. And it has to be age appropriate, so I just offer that as well. And, you know, if anyone here in the local area...we have our gala coming up in April. It's at The Star up here in Frisco where the Cowboys practice. And it's a wonderful event.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:55  
It is. I've been. Scott and I were there last year and it was a fantastic event.

Marsha Clark  51:01  
It is and there's all kinds of great entertainment, but there are silent auctions. And you're with people who share your support of the mission of safety, justice and healing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:13  
Okay, I want to give a shout out to the auctioneer. Not only was there a silent auction, there was a live auction. And that auctioneer woman absolutely blew me away. And not only did she blow me away, I think she probably tripled the number of donations in the room because she was so fantastic. So if you can, attend the event. Please consider getting a ticket.

Marsha Clark  51:37  
And if your company is looking for an event to sponsor or your team is looking for a service event, this would be a great place and it would help tremendously.

Lynne McLean  51:37  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:47  
Yeah. Well, thank you, listeners, for joining us today on our journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at for links to everything that's going on in Marsha's world. And definitely we will keep you posted on when the next book is coming out. But the first one is still available for purchase, "Embracing Your Power".

Marsha Clark  52:15  
That's right and I too, Lynne, thank you very much for being here because this is such an important message, and when we know better we do better. So hopefully we've helped our listeners to know better what's out there, what support is available. And as my listeners know, I usually close with 'here's to women helping women and supporting women'. I'm going to close with "Here's to women supporting women and girls and families!"

Transcribed by

bottom of page