Wetterling Center merges with Winona training program

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, named for the 11-year-old boy abducted from his central Minnesota town in 1989, has become part of a child protection training center based in Winona.

The Wetterling Center merged with the National Child Protection Training Center Feb. 1, but officials decided to wait to announce the merger until Wednesday, which would have been Jacob Wetterling's 32nd birthday.

Patty and Jerry Wetterling, Jacob's parents, started the Jacob Wetterling Foundation in 1990. The foundation later became the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

Victor Vieth, the training center's executive director, said the Wetterling Center's focus on prevention of child sexual and physical abuse will help the newly merged organization expand prevention programs nationwide.

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"Prevention is an area we haven't focused as much on, and many of the people we work with are very hungry to develop prevention programs, to develop a capacity to do more than simply respond after the fact," Vieth said.

Now that the merger has taken place, Vieth said the organization's goal is to have an evidence-based child abuse and neglect prevention program in every county in the country within 10 years.

Vieth said the Wetterling Center will also take a leadership role in making prevention a part of the curriculum for academic training programs in child protection.

The training center, which was established in 2003, will maintain an office in St. Paul in addition to its multi-million dollar training facility in Winona.