Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for the rights of children once said, "If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much." Words a group of folks in Parker County have taken seriously and are doing something about it.
On Sept. 1 the Children's Advocacy Center of Parker County - (CACPC) became an officially recognized, nonprofit organization, with the goal to provide hope and healing to children who are victims of abuse.
Dedra Vick, President of the CACPC Board, said the formation of the organization began more than a year ago when some felt like the children of Parker County, who have been victims of abuse, weren't receiving timely forensic interviews or appropriate aftercare services.
At that time a group of people from law enforcement, Child Protective Services, the District and County Attorney's offices, and the community decided to work together to change that and work to open the Children's Advocacy Center of Parker County.
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"The CACPC opened ahead of schedule thanks in large part to Sheriff Larry Fowler who seeded the organization $50,000 in funds from seized asset forfeiture collected by the sheriff's department," Vick said, "Sheriff Fowler feels strongly about this."
Vick estimates that the CACPC will be conducting around 200 forensic interviews in its first year of operation. The CACPC is planning on providing counseling services shortly, free of charge, to victims of abuse and their non-offending family members.
"Right now we are referring children to services with other agencies in Hood, Palo Pinto, and Tarrant Counties," Vick Said," Due to this children are either having to travel and wait long periods of time to receive services. We (Parker County) are the largest county in Texas that does not have a Children's Advocacy Center."
As of Oct. 10, the organization was able to temporarily secure the former offices of John Forrest, County Attorney, located at 118 W Columbia in Weatherford. This will allow them to start providing the needed services to the community, while also allowing them time to find a more permanent space. While searching for a location to operate from, the CACPC board was simultaneously searching for someone who was going to be able to run the center.
"The time came for us to hire an executive director," Vick explained. "We did an exhaustive search, and the board's executive committee found an excellent choice."
That choice was Parker County Native, Cheryl Bullock. Bullock was chosen due to her administrative skills, community involvement, and a passion for children.
"I specialize in sexual abuse and trauma counseling for children," Bullock said. "This is important to me. I can't tell you how many times I've had people come to me and say they had insurance but the deductible was $5,000 and couldn't afford it. I'd say pay whatever you can. I'm not going to turn away a precious child."
When she heard about the CACPC, she knew immediately she wanted to be part of it. She said it didn't matter if it was counseling or volunteering; she wanted to help.
"So it came about that I applied for the position," Bullock said. "Children have always been my passion. What children provide is hope there's always hope. I always learn from kids. I draw strength from them."
The CACPC will provide children a child-friendly environment in which forensic interviews for CPS and Law Enforcement take place. A forensic interview is a structured interview completed by a trained interviewer to ensure all information is obtained in that one interview. This is to help reduce the number of times a child has to be interviewed, thus keeping the child from having to relive that traumatic experience over and over.
"The CACPC also collaborates with all law enforcement entities in Parker County along with a multidisciplinary team which includes medical, Child Protective Services, the justice system…anything that has to do with children," Vick said. "They meet to make sure everything the child needs is covered." Although the CACPC helps collaborate joint investigations, they are a stand-alone agency that that is not run by CPS, law enforcement, or prosecution.
While the investigation is taking place the victims and their non-offending family members are referred to counseling to help them heal from the abuse that has been suffered. The CACPC will also provide education services to family and the community, the goal being to prevent other children from ever living the nightmare of abuse.
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274