By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – In 2013, there were 198 confirmed cases of child abuse in Palo Pinto County. As a result, Child Protective Services removed 65 children from their homes.
With so many children at risk, one local group is looking to curb those statistics and safeguard Palo Pinto County's most precious resource: future generations.
The recently formed Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County – headquartered in Mineral Wells – is an advocacy center that exists to assist in the investigation and prosecution of child abusers and the treatment and rehabilitation of victims and non-offending family members.
A contingent of CAC representatives, led by District Attorney and CAC President Mike Burns, were on hand in the Palo Pinto County Courthouse Monday morning to give a presentation to the Palo Pinto County Commissioners' Court. Burns formally introduced the non-profit organization and its purpose and requested a quarter of the thousands of dollars worth of unclaimed capital credits the county is set to receive from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Last month, commissioners unanimously approved a request for the funds, which the county has not received in two years. County officials expect to get over $8,000 from the state to be divided evenly amongst local programs that help abused children: the Child Welfare Board, Hope Inc., the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and, now officially, the CAC for Palo Pinto County.
The local CAC – which is the 69th child advocacy facility in Texas – provides necessary services to law enforcement, prosecution and medical and mental health providers that they might actively pursue child abuse cases. It also provides a forum in which these cases are handled.
"Historically, all of these disciplines have addressed child abuse under their own protocols," Burns said. "CPS did their thing, law enforcement did their thing, hospitals did their thing and there was little communication between the agencies.