Mineral Wells Index
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.
"The effectiveness of both the prosecution of the offender and treatment of the child has been vastly increased under the CAC model. It's less expensive and more efficient. Communication is key."
Burns said the "heart and soul" of the CAC is a multidisciplinary team and a forensic interviewer.
In the interviewer, the CAC has a specially trained, neutral individual – governed by the family code – who excels in obtaining evidence from children in regard to the criminal prosecution of child abuse cases.
When a child is brought to CAC, the interviewer conducts a private exchange with the child that is both recorded on DVD for law enforcement use and watched live on the other side of the building by CAC personnel. After the interview is complete, the multidisciplinary team comes together to discuss the case and follow it through every phase until its total completion.
CAC hopes to start serving local children within the next couple of months. Needless to say, the CAC model is one that Burns and the rest of the CAC staff firmly believe in.
"I've been privileged to serve as president of the corporation," Burns said. "It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. It is a very worthwhile project."
County Judge David Nicklas expressed his support for the program after the presentation.
"(We want to do) everything we can for the kids of Palo Pinto County," he said.
CAC Executive Director Libby Cluett said she was grateful for the support of the county and CAC's many generous donors. She and her coworkers are eager to begin the work that they are so passionate about.
"Since we're the new guys in town, it's wonderful to have the support of the Commissioners' Court and the county," she said. "We just got our certificate of occupancy, Monday (for our building at 203 SE 3rd Ave. in Mineral Wells). The next step is to move in."
Among the many organizations to donate to CAC are the Brazos Foundation, which gave $25,000, and the Mineral Wells Rotary Club and Kessler Foundation, both of which gave $10,000. Cluett said there have also been many generous individual benefactors, to whom CAC is most appreciative.
But, like most non-profits, CAC still needs to raise more money so they can best serve the endangered youth of Palo Pinto County.
Their biggest fundraiser coming up – entitled "Bags, Bingo and Badges" – is set to be held April 3 at Clark Gardens. For the price of a $30 ticket ($35 at the door), which includes 20 game cards, individuals can play bingo for the chance to win designer handbags, retailing from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.
The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for the event that will also feature heavy hors d'oeuvres and the option to buy additional bingo cards for a better chance to win.
It's not only a chance to score a designer bag for a fraction of its value, but also to help a worthwhile cause to help the children of Palo Pinto County.
And the event is not just for women. In Burns' words, it's also a chance for men to come home heroes by bringing their significant other a high-class purse.
Tickets are available for purchase at Titan Bank, Ace Hardware and Cole's House of Flowers for $30. Cluett said prospective patrons can also buy tickets from her, directly, or from any of the CAC's board members. Or call 940-445-7380.
In other business, Monday, commissioners:
• Approved a request to re-plat Phase VIII, Lots 156 & 157 of The Cliffs Subdivision.
• Approved installation cost of fiber cabling.
• Approved a proposal by Accurate Leak & Line for Courthouse sewer repairs.
• Approved a resolution adopting a Local Section 3 Policy.
• Approved Excessive Force resolution.
• Approved Section 504 Grievance Procedures.
• Accepted Commissary Audit Report in compliance with Local Government Code Section 351.0415(d).
• Approved application for Over Axle/Over Gross Weight Tolerance Permits for precincts 1, 2 and 3.
• Approved transfer of 2007 Ford Expedition from Constable Precinct 4 to Emergency Management.
• Approved transfer of 2007 Ford F-150 truck from Emergency Management to Road and Bridge, Precinct 1.
• Confirmed length of appointment for Emergency Management Coordinator/Fire Marshal.
• Approved certification and budgeting of unanticipated revenue under Local Government Code Section 111.0108-LEOSE Revenue.
• Approved payment of $5,000 deductible for liability claim on EMC/Fire Marshal automobile claim.
• Approved request by Lake Palo Pinto Area Water Supply Corporation to cut Thornton Lane (Precinct 3).
• Approved request by North Rural Water Supply to cut roads in Precinct 2.
• Approved Six Flags online ticket program agreement for discount tickets for county employees.
• Approved transfer of 2008 Ford Crown Victoria from Sheriff's Office to District Attorney's Office.
• Approved transfer of 2008 Ford Crown Victoria from Sheriff's Office to General Operations for Courthouse usage.
• Left on the county-wide burn ban.