New York University, Master in Clinical Social Work with Honors
Rutgers University, B.A. in Psychology
Evelyn Mejil wants you to know her work is your work, too. “This is a fight that belongs to everybody and something that should be on everyone’s agenda,” she says.
Every year, more than 6 million children are abused or neglected in America. And as the executive director at Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center, Evelyn works to promote justice and healing for child victims. Her organization helps coordinate investigations, prosecution, treatment and preventative services for children and family. It’s an emotionally difficult and often overwhelming job, but it’s also a challenge Evelyn finds invigorating and rewarding.
“We all know the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and that’s very much the reality of my work,” Evelyn says. “I have the ability to talk to different community partners from law, medical, mental health and child services, and then bring them together in service of our children.”
Be willing to follow your vision, even if you’re the only person that can see it.
How did you discover your current job?
I’d like to think that a combination of my personal and professional journeys has led me to this position. My experience with multidisciplinary work, locally and internationally, in various capacities have included providing direct services, program development, strategic planning, policy, crisis intervention, prevention and resolution, community collaborations and more. I feel privileged to bring my experience to Wynona’s House and serve as executive director.
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
My primary responsibility is to advance the mission of Wynona’s House: “To promote justice and healing for child victims of abuse and violence by coordinating investigations, prosecution, treatment and prevention services for children and families.”
Furthermore, I aim to ensure best practices and advance research in the areas of child abuse and neglect. In order to do this, solidifying cohesive and productive partnerships is key.
I’m also responsible for supervising and supporting the ongoing operations of the Center and developing and implementing policy and procedure in line with the vision and mission statement of Wynona’s House. Finally, I strategize and implement plans for funding sustainability to ensure the longevity of the agency.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my career to serving children and families and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. My professional and personal experience gives me a unique perspective in terms of what’s been done and what needs to be done.
We all know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and that’s very much the reality of my work. I have the ability to talk to different community partners from law, medical, mental health and child services, and then bring them together in service of our children.
It’s important to understand there has to be one response to child abuse and neglect — and in recognizing that, we’re able to unite in raising awareness for child abuse and neglect by working together.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
What keeps me up at night is the challenge of raising awareness about child abuse and neglect — the challenge of making our nation aware of this silent epidemic we’re experiencing, so that urgent action can be taken.
When I think about the lives of our children being abused and assaulted — the kids who feel broken, forgotten, hopeless, voiceless and insignificant — it’s almost too much to bear. Often times these children have no one to help them, defend them or advocate for them.
I want to educate our country and make it known to all key stakeholders, legislators and the general public that we need to not only raise awareness, but develop a full understanding of the services available for these children, identify the best practices in responding to child abuse and neglect allegations and define what work has yet to be done in service of providing hope, healing and justice for victims.
Challenges are just that — challenging, but it’s my experience that challenges can also be invigorating. They force you to think differently, gain new perspectives, conquer old fears, expand your boundaries, reveal vulnerabilities and release inhibitions. They cause you to grow and expand your vision.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
In this profession, it’s very easy to become mentally and emotionally drained, because you can easily get caught up in each child’s story and the work that remains to be done. It’s important to have healthy boundaries, but for particularly difficult hard cases that keep you up at night, I rely on the support of my friends, family and staff.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Be purpose-driven. Be committed to your passion. Don’t compromise your convictions. Be willing to follow your vision, even if you’re the only person that can see it.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
I believe success in any line of work is tied to a combination of intention, will, fortitude, focus, determination, desire, resilience and compassion. Being disciplined and diligent with your talent will eventually lead to success.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
I would tell myself that your story doesn’t define you — that you should dare to dream and then follow those dreams. This is a message that every child and every person should hear. You CAN achieve anything.
What is your next professional endeavor?
I’m focused on the 1st Child Advocacy Center National Summit on Child Abuse and Neglect in the State of New Jersey, hosted by Wynona’s House.
For the first time, we’re building a platform on a national level to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and share innovative and comprehensive best practices to help child victims of abuse.
More than 6 million children are abused or neglected in America every year. Child abuse does not discriminate; child abuse can affect any child in any community, regardless of economic level, ethnicity, race or religious group. As a nation, we’re undergoing a silent epidemic where children — and innocent souls — are being constantly victimized. We need to stand up for them.
This is a fight that belongs to everybody and it’s something that should be on everyone’s agenda.