It has been nearly two years of searching, and now the Meadowlark House has a new place to call home.

Located at 11154 Kliesen Street, Suite 3 in Dodge City, the Meadowlark House in Dodge City has provided assistance for a safe environment to abused and neglected children and families since 1999.

Working with the Dodge City Police Department, Ford County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families, the Meadowlark House’s mission is to promote prevention, education and intervention services to those children and families.

In the beginning, the need for what the Meadowlark House provides children was due to law enforcement struggling with child abuse and child sexual abuses cases.

"The law was changed so investigations were done jointly by, at that time SRS and the law enforcement agency," Meadowlark House board president Arlyn Leaming said. "It helped but still didn't meet the needs of the kids. The kids were still being interviewed more than one time, and at law enforcement agencies they weren't very child-friendly down at the station, so the National Children's Alliance had some protocols that we could follow and that is what got us started."

During that time, the Crisis Center of Dodge City was the agency leading cases that came in followed by the Ford County Sheriff's Office, Dodge City Police Department and SRS.

"So we all got together and decided it would be good so the first Meadowlark House was on Avenue A near the old health department," Leaming said. "We used the house for the interviews because they were child friendly, we had an observation room, interview room where we could interview the child one time in a forensically-sound interview, meaning you don't ask leading questions and it worked well. It pulled everyone together and everybody working as a team."

According to the Meadowlark House, each year approximately 80 children are provided with high quality interviews and the children and their caregivers with advocacy and referral services.

The interviews are done through referrals through the Dodge City Police Department, Ford County Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Now with the new location, the rooms for interviews, observations and environment have nearly doubled in size.

"It is a more professional location for children to feel comfortable in," Meadowlark House child advocate Susie Antosh said.

Leaming added, "With the new location we are able to accomplish more."

The executive committee of the Meadowlark House is made up of Leaming, Mike Hoar and Jackie Kemmerer with board members consisting of Mark Vierthaler, Brian Hastings, Rachael Pitchford, Tiffany Carr, Jeryln Meyers and Shayla Waldman.

The committee meets once a month.

The Meadowlark House is a program that receives its funding through donations and grants.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com