Springfield, MO

12 People You Need to Know in 2018: Linda Saturno

Protecting the Vulnerable

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Linda Saturno sees her mission clearly: Protect the vulnerable. It’s what she’s done for years in the United States, Saint Lucia, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

Now, she’s bringing a dozen years of nonprofit managerial experience to her new role as executive director of The Child Advocacy Center Inc. “I’m the biggest child advocate anyone can be,” she says.

Saturno worked overseas with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund – ultimately leading her to Saint Lucia where she found her calling.

“That year of being that close to the issues of child abuse and neglect, and specifically child sex abuse, it just crystalized it for me that I needed to be working for children,” she says.

Her goal is to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. And because children are reliant on the adults in their lives for support and care, when that adult fails in a horrific way, the children are left voiceless. That’s why Saturno came to CAC in October – succeeding 19-year director Barbara Brown-Johnson.

Saturno oversees a staff of 26 between three offices with a reach of 16 counties. CAC’s 2018 budget is $2.5 million, up from $2 million in 2017.

The center provided forensic interviews and medical evaluations for about 1,600 children in 2017. The process, Saturno says, often prevents the child from reliving the trauma throughout interviews and, at times, prevents the child from having to testify in court. However, if they must, CAC prepares the child.

“The impact on the child is to help them get out of not only that situation, but to also, in cases where there has been substantiated abuse, help the child get access to justice,” Saturno says.

That’s the critical short-term impact. The long-term, Saturno says, also is astronomical.

“Research tells us that children who experience trauma at a young age have long-term added risks for serious health conditions and they earn less money,” she says. “If we can reduce adverse childhood experiences, then we not only help the individual, but we can also make a long-term impact on society as a whole and even on an economic level.”


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