Winona Daily News
By Mary Juhl
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar stepped around broken glass Monday as she looked for clues in a torn-up Winona living room strewn with empty beer bottles, clothing and clutter.
She wasn’t playing detective on a day off. Instead, she was touring a simulated crime scene at the National Child Protection Training Center.
Klobuchar and three other members of Congress recently introduced legislation that would create three additional centers across the country to train teachers, law-enforcement and health care professionals, social workers, and day care providers to identify, report — and one day, hopefully, prevent — child abuse.
“There’s a lot of bad things that can go on, whether it’s with teenagers or young babies, and the fact that Winona is the out-front leader in the country is something that makes me proud,” Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar was joined by Winona State University staff, representatives from Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand, Winona Chief of Police Paul Bostrack, county attorney Karin Sonneman and others as she made her way around the second-floor facility in WSU’s Maxwell Hall.
“Thanks for your good work,” Klobuchar said as she leaned into an office at the beginning of the tour.
The center provides intensive training to those working with children from around the country, helps other states set up training courses, and supports WSU’s child advocacy studies minor. The center, which opened in 2003, has trained more than 70,000 child protection professionals.
“It is a reminder of how much you can do with a little heart, hard work, scotch tape and a little bit of prayer,” said Victor Vieth, the center’s executive director.
The center partnered with Gundersen Lutheran last month in exchange for fiscal, administrative and professional support. Gundersen Lutheran CEO Jeff Thompson said the goal is to integrate child protection training into health care.
“We believe that together we can do stunning things,” Thompson said.
Though the center serves organizations on a national level, it also provides training to local law enforcement and other professionals. Sonneman said it allows Winona law enforcement to easily update training programs. “It’s amazing to have this kind of facility in our community,” Sonneman said. “Not a day goes by when I take that for granted.”