After more than three decades of service, the founding executive director of the Northern Kentucky Children’s Advocacy Center is stepping down.
On Wednesday, NKYCAC announced the retirement of Vickie Henderson. Her replacement is longtime staff member Lauren Mason, who’s assuming the role of chief executive officer.
“I have been inspired, humbled and blessed to have had the opportunity to assist in protecting children in Northern Kentucky,” Henderson said prior to her last day on Jan. 26.
Improving the lives of Kentucky children
Henderson has spent the past few weeks building up to her retirement reminiscing about her roughly 32 years in child advocacy work. Her work in the field began in 1992 when she became Kentucky’s first forensic interviewer. She’s also one of the founders of NKYCAC, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the commonwealth.
During her career, Henderson conducted more than 6,000 child forensic interviews and led the transformation of NKYCAC from a grassroots effort to a model advocacy center.
Today, the agency provides services to children who’ve been sexually or severely physically abused and/or those who’ve witnessed violent crimes. The on-staff advocates work closely with local social workers, law enforcement, prosecutors, therapists and health care providers to help affected children.
NKYCAC also offers services to non-offending parents, caregivers and family members to make sure they’re in a position to support their loved one.
Clients served live in Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen and Pendleton counties.
One of Henderson’s significant achievements was the collaboration with the cities of Florence and Fort Thomas in 2008 to obtain community grant funding for the construction of the NKYCAC headquarters in Florence. It became the first free-standing, custom-built children’s advocacy center in Kentucky.
Henderson’s impact extends beyond Northern Kentucky. She played an instrumental role in creating the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Kentucky and helped shape several state statutes and administrative regulations.
As a site reviewer for the National Children’s Alliance, Henderson became an advocate for children’s services across the United States.
“It’s been life changing,” Henderson said of her time at NKYCAC.
Big shoes to fill
For NKYCAC, Henderson’s retirement is coming as no surprise. She spent the past three years developing a succession plan, said Chris Carle, chair of NKYCAC’s board. That process included pulling in field experts to ensure a smooth transition.
After consulting with subject matter experts, the board identified Mason as Henderson’s successor. Mason, who’s been with the organization since 2009, assumed the role of CEO prior to Henderson’s retirement day.
“Vickie is known for planning what is next and best for the children, families and NKYCAC, her retirement has been no different,” Carle said of Henderson. “(She) has built a nonprofit that has saved countless lives, her legacy will continue as she has trained the best.”
Since joining NKYCAC, Mason has risen through the ranks to hold a number of leadership positions, including multidisciplinary team coordinator, forensic interviewer and program director.
Over the past decade, she conducted more 4,000 forensic interviews, demonstrating a deep commitment to the well-being of child victims, Carle said.
During her tenure at NKYCAC, Mason developed Kentucky’s forensic interviewing curriculum in collaboration with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Kentucky. She’s also provided peer reviews for forensic interviewers statewide and facilitated basic and advanced forensic interviewer courses.
Mason earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Kentucky.
Self-described as someone dedicated to the “fidelity of the Children’s Advocacy Center model,” Mason promised to continue to embrace “teamwork, prevention, safety and justice for all children and families” in her new role.
“Vickie’s vision for child victims in Kentucky over the last 33 years has shaped the Center into what it is today,” she added. “I look forward to carrying on her legacy but also growing and expanding services into the future.”