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Organizations advocate counseling from an early age to help cut down the number of homicides in KCMO

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Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-14 09:48:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Sunnie Carney's father was murdered.

Carney is now using her experience recovering from trauma to help children dealing with their own trauma of losing a family member to murder.

"He was Kansas City's 19th homicide of 2012," said Carney, founder of Children of Homicide Victims.

She worked for five years to cope with her father's death.

"I didn't get healed until I was 22," she said.

Her father was killed two days before her 17th birthday.

"I went through losing somebody who was a hero to me" Carney said. "The best role model I could think of in my life. That feeling of protection and my dad being an unsolved homicide. You go through paranoia."

The chance to grow up with a father was stolen from her, but she decided being the child of a homicide victim was only the start what would come next.

"By the grace of God, he created that testimony for me to help and serve other children like me," said Carney

Even children as young as six-weeks-old faced with trauma like Carney's need counseling.

"It impacts them immediately," said Candis Boily, director of Outpatient Counseling and Family Support Services at The Children's Place. "They just don't have the words to say it."

Experts at The Children's Place, a mental health agency for children, know sometimes a child's trauma response is what they show you.

"It takes an immense toll and it can be two different things," Boily said. "We see kiddos with big behaviors or the kid who's withdrawn and acts like nothing happened."

As Carney sees time and time again, trauma can meet a child before they have skills to cope with it.

"Especially with the recent homicides lately, we have families of homicide victims with children who are not even born," Carney said. "A lot of homicide suspects are just unhealed children."

They're also moments some children never get to have.

"A cycle over and over again," Carney laments.

Carney said she wants to interrupt the trauma by showing victims from childhood that healing isn't impossible.

"If you speak up and get the help that child needs, you're saving that child's life from going so many different directions," she said.