In 2008, members of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Kaufman County began their first interviews with child victims of abuse in a closet at the sheriff’s office.
The program has expanded steadily during that time, but once again, the center needs a new and larger home.
At a meeting of the Kaufman Lions Club on Aug. 9, members of the center’s staff talked to members about the work the center does and the need for an expanded facility.
In cases of suspected abuse, instead of having children undergoing multiple interviews with different agencies, the center works with all of the jurisdictions in the area and conducts one interview with a victim. That information is then shared with other agencies, such as law enforcement or child protective services. The children can be victims of sex abuse, physical abuse, witnesses to domestic violence, or witnesses to assault or other violent events, or sex trafficking.
During the interviews with children, law enforcement can watch on closed-circuit TV, said Tracy Ramirez, the center’s program specialist.
The center’s seven employees serve as many as 1,000 children per year, said Shannon Gardner, the center’s director. That translates into about 4,000 clients served annually, as children and their families receive counseling and advocacy services. In Texas, she reported that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18.
The new 10,000-square-foot facility would double the size of the existing center and provide room to grow and expand services. The current rooms are not soundproof and are noisy, making it difficult to interview children, Gardner explained.
The facility is budgeted at $1.4 million, with $475,000 raised so far. The center’s operational funding comes from state and federal grants, as well as the United Way, private donations, and other forms of community support. Foundations often will donate to capital campaigns, but they typically like to see about half of the funds raised to show community support for the project.
The center’s work is critically important to the Kaufman Police Department, added Chief Dana Whitaker, who also was at the meeting.
“This helps in the successful prosecution of people who abuse children,” he said. A larger and better facility “would make all the difference in the world” for the staff and children they serve.
A video about the center’s campaign is available on the website at
https://kaufmanccac.org/donate/. Donations can be made on the same site, and there also is more information about the center and the staff’s work. The center is located at 500 S. Washington St.