Alaska's largest child advocacy center is getting an upgrade.

On Thursday, 1,000 butterflies were symbolically planted outside of a Midtown building currently under construction. The thought of butterflies typically conjures up feelings of love and happiness. These butterflies represent the 1,000 physically and sexually abused children that Alaska CARES helps each year.

Alaska CARES is a facility that houses multiple child protection agencies under one roof, including law enforcement and mental health professionals.

"When kids have had something traumatic happen to them, we really want the most compassionate response to that," said Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, the medical director for Alaska CARES. "The flow of children and families through the facility is going to be so much better. It's going to be better to maintain privacy and confidentiality."

Alaska CARES works to improve the lives of abused children from newborn to 18-years-old. Dr. Baldwin-Johnson says the number of children and families receiving help has risen in recent years as Alaska has seen an uptick in violence and drug use.

"I think there may be a number of different factors contributing to the rise in our numbers," said Dr. Baldwin-Johnson. "So, part of it is really sad, but on the other hand, we know we're providing services to kids that need them. So, maybe [more people] are more aware and willing to report. Which is a good thing because then we can help those kids."

The healing process for an emotionally, physically, or sexually abused child is of great importance. Not just for the emotional health of the child upon reaching adulthood, but for their physical well being.

"The more of those things that happen to a child, the more likely they are as an adult to get any kind of cancer, to have heart disease, to have diabetes-- to have this whole host of medical and mental health problems."

Providence Alaska Foundation says of the $12.8 million needed to complete the new Alaska CARES building, $11 million has been raised. They are now turning to the public for help in completing the fundraising. You can donate by going to AKCARES.org or find out more about the campaign by using #AKCARES on social media.

The Midtown building is scheduled to be completed in April 2019.

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