BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Working with children is something Paula Condol always knew she wanted to do, so she started her journey by exploring the field of teaching, but quickly realized that wasn’t’ what she was looking for.

“I just felt like I’d have more impact when I met with kids and families, one on one versus, you know, 30 kids in a classroom,” Paula Condol, executive director, Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center, shared. “And so I switched professions to become a counselor.”

She worked as a children’s counselor in Minot for more than five years before getting married and moving to Bismarck.

It was then, more than two decades ago, that she became the executive director of the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center.

“It’s just really become a passion of mine and part of my heart,” Paula said.

When Paula started working at the center… it was the only children’s advocacy in North Dakota, serving about 60 children a year.

Today, DCAC is one of three centers in the state, seeing nearly 1000 children a year.

“So think about just that volume of people, you know, needing help and needing the services,” Paula explained. “I will tell you that not only have been there more cases, but the cases have become much more difficult, and the abuse become much more severe.”

Paula says the number of cases skyrocketed when the oil boom hit in 2009, and again during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, every time we’ve seen numbers go up and cases go up, we’ve never seen a drop after the fact after it’s gone down,” Paula said.

Working in the ever-growing world of trauma affects a person in many ways, from not sleeping at night to the joy in everyday life.

“Sometimes you have a whole view change in your world, you know, the world doesn’t seem as safe as it is it used to right,” Paula shared. “And things like not being able to watch the same TV shows, or just even sometimes going out and having fun and letting loose doesn’t seem to be the right decision when you’re kind of immersed with suffering all day.”

But Paula also sees a positive side to all they do: a great circle of support, learning to be resilient, and simply being able to say, “I had a rough day and could really use some support.”

“I think one of the things we talk about with staff is just remembering our why are we here? Why are we passionate about what we do,” Paula asked. “Because that’s what really helps sustain us through the difficult times.”

And most importantly, Paula wants kids to feel seen and heard the moment they walk through the door.

“I want them to also feel like this is a safe place to be because I can’t guarantee what’s going to happen when they leave here,” Paula said. “I can’t guarantee an outcome and a court case, or that things are going to get better or worse. I mean, we can try our best to make those types of things happen, but while they’re here, I want them to feel like someone sees them, someone really listens to them, that they’re hearing what they’re saying, and that they feel safe here.”

Paula Condol, helping one child and one family at a time, is Someone You Should Know.