The first thing anyone will notice about Stacy McNeiland is her vitality and joie de vivre. Her broad smile, sparkling eyes and ready wit make her instantly approachable.
McNeiland carries that affability into her work as CEO of The CARE Center (Child Abuse Response and Evaluation). The CARE Center is nationally accredited by the National Children’s Alliance and serves as a collaborating partner with state and local agencies that deal with child abuse in Oklahoma County.
She also brings an unrivaled tenacity and drive to a job that few have the wherewithal to perform. Herself a survivor of years of childhood abuse, McNeiland uses her insights to give hurting children the attention they need, while working with law enforcement to prosecute their abusers.
McNeiland also wrote and developed the center’s ROAR program for children aged 4 to 8 that teaches them how to protect themselves from abuse. Launched in April 2016, the ROAR program has provided training for 12,439 children.
IN HER WORDS
What is your background, and why did you seek the role you currently perform?
I was fortunate to have a great career in higher education, and then discovered an opportunity completely outside my comfort zone – CEO of The CARE Center. Ultimately, this unknown opportunity has become my calling, one that I am honored to fill every day. I am a child abuse survivor and believe in the justice and healing The CARE Center provides. I am passionate, driven and love living life to the fullest.
What are the things that keep you up at night?
Currently, and due to COVID-19, I am worried about children returning to the classroom and finally having access to safe adults. For children in homes where abuse is the norm, school can be a lifeline. Think about it: There are children in our community who have been home since mid-March. Those children may not have had contact with a safe adult for the last five months. They may have endured five months of abuse – unchecked, out of sight and out of mind. It breaks my heart. Did you know more than half of all reports of child abuse are generated from teachers and school counselors, who recognize signs of abuse and get children get the help they need? In the evening hours, before sleep commands, I pray for clear eyes and the fiercest of fighting spirits for all counselors, teachers, coaches and beyond. May they recognize the children who have waited so long to find an ally, and may they speak up to protect kids from the epidemic that is child abuse – even as the pandemic rages on.
What are the things you do that give you the most satisfaction, inspiration or joy?
Things that give me satisfaction, inspiration and joy are dreaming big, giving back to my community and enjoying some simple things. I’m a visionary, and never satisfied with the status quo. I believe there’s always room to improve and strive for excellence in my work and life. Giving back is in my heart – whether it’s for my friends, social groups or things I deeply believe in. And if all else fails, shopping, family dinners, traveling and a good girls’ night spark joy in my life!
What advice would you give to a young woman who is just starting to see her potential?
Never, never, never give up. But also, be patient – with yourself and others.
What do people need to know about child abuse?
First, understand that child abuse is an epidemic in Oklahoma. One in three girls and one in five boys will be abused before their 18th birthday in Oklahoma County. Second, recognize and report suspected child abuse. Don’t hesitate to call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.522.3511. Third, if people are unsure about what to look for, The CARE Center offers free prevention education courses to adults and children. We hope abuse doesn’t happen, but if it does, The CARE Center is Oklahoma County’s only child advocacy center providing true wrap-around services for education and healing from abuse.