By CHRIS AGEE
Various regional agencies handle distinct aspects of child abuse and neglect cases, though the recent addition of a countywide children's advocacy center promises to help bring those resources together for a common goal.
From law enforcement to the prosecution of offenders, an incident of child abuse can result in a long ordeal that often affects the young victim severely.
Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan explained that without the Children's Alliance Center of Palo Pinto County, children can often face compounded traumatization with multiple interviews.
While child victims were previously transported to Cook's Children's Hospital in Fort Worth for the services of expert forensic interviewers, Sullivan said the new Children's Advocacy Center "almost becomes a one-stop shop."
Bringing together individuals trained to work with both children and adults – specifically interviewers – can minimize the negative impact of such situations on those testifying.
"They know the right buttons to push and know when to back off," Sullivan explained.
CAC is merely one part in a much larger system of dealing with child abuse, though. Information gained through interviews at the center is also shared with other agencies and can also be used in court as victim testimony, Sullivan said.
"With it being recorded, all agencies get the same information," said CAC Board Member Joy Eaton.
CAC, consisting of individuals from diverse disciplines, handles a variety of vital investigative services, including collecting photographs, treating medical needs and coordinating case reviews among its members.
A number of other agencies fulfill vital roles in handling the sensitive cases, such as Child Protective Services and Court Appointed Special Advocates.
CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties Executive Director Barbara Tucker explained the role of her organization in the process.
"CASA only enters the picture after the child has entered the custody of the state," she said.