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Judicial candidates visit Children's Assessement Center

Three candidates for Michigan Supreme Court visited the Children's Assesment Center.
L to R: Sheila Johnson, Connie Kelley, and Bridgett McCormack, candidates for Michigan Supreme Court and Lauren Furneaux.

L to R: Sheila Johnson, Connie Kelley, and Bridgett McCormack, candidates for Michigan Supreme Court and Lauren Furneaux. /Courtesy of Lauren Furneaux

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For more information about the Child Assessment Center, visit

For information on these three candidates for Supreme Court, go to, and


One out of seven boys will suffer sexual abuse before the age of 18. For girls, that number is one in three. And less than 15 percent disclose that abuse. These are shocking statistics, and may be hard to accept, especially for people who think, “It can’t happen here,” or “It can’t happen to my child.” But it happens everywhere and is no respecter of socio-economic class, neighborhood, religion or even the best efforts of parents to keep their children safe. It happens here in Kent County, and it can happen to anyone.

The Children’s Assessment Center of Kent County understands that, and, every day, they work with children, parents, law enforcement, child protective services and the court system helping victims of abuse tell their stories, receive counseling and support and, ultimately, justice.

In 1991, Chief of Police William Hagerty saw a young girl sitting in the police station. She was alone, wearing a stained yellow dress. When he asked her why she was there, she said, “I just got off the bus. He hurt me again last night, and I know I need help.”

Touched by her plight, Hagerty began the work of creating a place where the girl in the yellow dress could find the help she needed.

The doors of the Children’s Assessment Center opened in 1993. Now, every year, nearly 1,000 children come through the doors, looking for help, understanding, validation, empowerment. Looking for hope.

A staff of trained and compassionate professionals works with each child individually, building trust that allows the child to tell his or her story. They are seen by assessment specialists, therapists and an onsite physician. The children, who have been robbed of control over their own lives, control what happens at the CAC. They can come as often as they need and as long as they need. At the CAC, they are believed and respected.

The CAC is unique in that both law enforcement and child protective services (CPS) professionals are onsite. While they are employed by their individual organizations, they work full-time with the staff of the CAC. The Children’s Assessment Center is the only facility in the state that maintains this relationship with law enforcement and CPS.

Recently, three candidates for Michigan’s Supreme Court, each with a heart for families and children, visited the center for a conversation with those who work at the CAC. 

Connie Marie Kelley is currently a Judge with the Wayne County Circuit Court. She was elected in 2008 after 27 years of practicing law.

Bridget Mary McCormack is Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs at the University of Michigan Law School where she also teaches. She is the founder of the Michigan Innocence Project.

Sheila Johnson is a District Court Judge in Michigan’s 46th Circuit Court who practiced law for 18 years before her election to the Court.

They were accompanied by Lauren Freneaux, whose two-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered by her stepmother in November 2010. Freneaux has endorsed Kelley, McCormack and Johnson.

“Judges should be non-partisan and above the politics of the day. The Supreme Court of Michigan is often perceived to be partisan, and that needs to change. My goal is to protect families and children on the Court. With the departure of Justice Marilyn Kelly, a strong voice for families is necessary in the Supreme Court. I hope to be that voice,” Kelley said.

“Everyone should get a ‘fair shake’. The Supreme Court needs to function equally well for everyone, including those who sometimes have not had an opportunity to be heard. It is essential that the rights of all citizens are recognized, and that includes children and families,“ according to McCormack.

“I welcome the opportunity to serve the citizens of Michigan and to make the decisions of the court fair, just and equitable for everyone. The Supreme Court needs to be balanced and address not just business interests but the well-being of all,” Judge Sheila Johnson said.

The ballot to elect Supreme Court Justices is non-partisan, and those wishing to vote will need to go to the non-partisan portion of the ballot to cast a vote. Voting a straight ticket does not register as a vote for Justices.





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