Children’s Advocacy Center Raising Public Awareness Of Abuse
It is the birthright of every child to be loved, protected and nurtured. It is also a child’s right to grow up healthy and with their boundaries intact. That is why it is the mission of Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County to reduce trauma to child victims through the simple but powerful concept of coordination between community agencies and the law enforcement professionals involved in the investigation and intervention of child abuse and trauma. Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County (CACVZC) constantly strives to provide child victims and their care-givers the opportunity for justice, help, hope and healing.
Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas was founded in 1994 with just 13 centers across Texas.
Today there are 168 centers statewide, both urban and rural, serving 162 counties. CACVZC serves Van Zandt County with a volunteer board of directors, staff of three, numerous volunteers through the unique coordination and communication between local law enforcement, Child Protection Services (CPS) and district prosecution. The center is funded by state and federal grants as well as generous community donors made up of individuals, businesses and civic organizations. It truly takes the commitment of an entire community to serve the most vulnerable in our society, our children.
Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County’s mission is to minimize the trauma children face when it is discovered they are victims of abuse. Instead of giving their statement at a police station, social service office or hospital, children and their families come to one safe place: the Children’s Advocacy Center. It is there they experience a loving and safe environment, a passion for justice, and hope for healing. It is at the Children’s Advocacy Center that Child Protective Services, law enforcement, medical specialists, prosecutors and therapists come together to work toward the justice and healing of each child.
At the very heart of Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County is the forensic interview conducted by a specially trained forensic interviewer in a child-friendly and safe environment. This is the first step in the investigation of a child abuse case and the first step to healing for the child. Every victim of abuse has a story that must be told. It is the center’s role to provide the unique, child-friendly environment along with the professional investigative interview to secure the forensic statement.
This recorded interview is used by CPS, law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office in an effort to prevent the child from having to tell their story over and over, essentially the prevention of re-traumatizing the child. It is the forensic interview that often provides the necessary evidence to kick off the investigation that may lead to criminal prosecution of the offender, thus, providing justice for the advocacy services are another key component of Children’s Advocacy Center’s direct services.
The family advocate works with the non-offending family members to assess physical and emotional needs encountered due to the abuse or trauma. Children and families walk into the Children’s Advocacy Center in crisis and it is the family advocate’s desire that they leave with hope and that stability and safety are within their grasp. The center’s family advocate has an extensive list of resources and contacts to refer families from the very basic of needs to the more complex. The family advocate is dedicated to seeing the family through from interview to prosecution.
Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County believes mental health therapy through licensed counseling is the key to the healing process for every child of abuse and trauma. Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County draws from a list of well-trained, trauma focused licensed professional counselors throughout Van Zandt County in which to refer their clients based on each family’s individual needs and location within the County.
CACVZC not only wants to reduce the trauma of child abuse but also desires to prevent it. Education for both children and adults is the only solution to stopping the cycle of abuse and neglect.
Children in Van Zandt County are presented awareness programs at schools, daycare and church youth programs. These educational programs teach children what abuse is, that it is okay to tell an adult “No” if they are made to feel uncomfortable or being harmed, and to tell a trusted adult if they or someone they know are being hurt. Adult education programs are available for educators, parents, community members, church youth staff and center volunteers that teach how to recognize and report child abuse.
Continuing education credits are available for adults who are mandated by State law to receive child abuse awareness training.
Why should communities support their local child advocate agencies like Children’s Advocacy Center, Child Protective Services, CASA, Child Welfare Board, ABC Room and the East Texas Crisis Center? The late Nelson Mandela said it best, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
In Texas, 185 children are abused in a single day. In one year, 65,000 cases of child abuse are confirmed. One in four girls are sexually abused by age 18; and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday.
To donate, schedule an education program, or find out how to get involved, contact Children’s Advocacy Center of Van Zandt County, 547 S. Buffalo Street, Canton, TX 75103, phone 903.567.1212 or email email@example.com.
To report suspected child abuse in Texas call 800.252.5400 and callers can remain anonymous. Outside of Texas, visit www.onewithcourage.org for a list of resources.