|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - March 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Group planning advocacy center for victims of physical, sexual abuse
Polk County Enterprise - March 2009
LIVINGSTON — Directors of a newly created nonprofi t organization Childrenz HAVEN and local law enforcement offi cials met Monday with a representative of Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas Inc. (CAC) to discuss creating a local site for multidisciplinary investigation and treatment of child victims of physical or sexual abuse. All counties surrounding Polk County currently have a CAC facility in operation. Law enforcement offi cials including Sheriff Kenneth Hammack and District Attorney Lee Hon advocate bringing CAC to Polk County so victims have access to needed services close to home. Many victims are currently traveling to Conroe for services. Other agencies such as Livingston Independent School District and Memorial Medical Center- Livingston are joining the effort. CACs offer a child-friendly setting where law enforcement, child protective services (CPS), prosecutors as well as medical and mental health providers can jointly investigate allegations of sexual abuse. This minimizes the trauma to the victim by reducing the number of interviews and other delicate procedures the victim must endure to prosecute the offender, according to Catherine Bass, a program services specialist with CAC of Texas who spoke to the group in Livingston. The CAC also provides a safe place where specialists can ensure that victims and non-offending family members receive confi dential help to relieve and heal the physical, emotional and psychological trauma they’ve experienced. From September 2007 to August 2008 CPS workers in Polk County completed 432 investigations concerning 1,038 children. Of those reports, 656 children were identifi ed as victims of sexual abuse in 154 investigations. Sexual abuse was validated in 23.48 percent of the CPS investigations in Polk County. Those numbers are startling even to those who handle these cases day-to-day. In the coming months Childrenz HAVEN will be collecting data about the number of incidents occuring now as well as drafting a budget, developing interagency agreements and fund-raising to meet CAC’s application deadline later this year. CACs across Texas receive core funding from a legislative appropriation through the Offi ce of Attorney General, other government grants which are matched by local sources.