SINTON – According to the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend, in 2018 the organization interviewed about 1,700 children about alleged abuse, and about 240 of those children live in San Patricio County which is about 116 families.
The advocacy group works in 12 Coastal Bend counties and has a budget of about $1.3 million a year. They receive the majority of their funds from state and federal government money and supplement funds with grants, private foundations and fundraisers.
At Monday’s commissioners court meeting, Executive Director Clarissa Mora of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend asked commissioners for $5,000 to be added to the county budget for 2020 that would go to the advocacy group to help supplement funds. This is the first time the group has asked for county funds.
“Out of the 12 official counties that we serve, Nueces County is the only other county that we get commissioners court funds from,” Mora told commissioners. “We’ve approached Aransas County and asked them for funds as well.
“What we do is we provide direct services to children and their families who have been alleged victims of assault or any type of violence.”
She said the main type of allegation that the group sees is child sexual assault, and they work directly with children and their family members to make sure they get the process started – not only the investigation, but also following through therapeutic services to make sure that the child in the family also gets therapy and can recover from the trauma that they’ve been through.
“One of the main services that we provide is called forensic interviewing,” Mora continued. “It’s just like if any of us were a victim of a crime, we have to go down to the police station and give a statement about what happened to us.
“Instead of the children going to the police station, they come to our center, and we’re a neutral facility.
“Our forensic interviewers are trained to talk to children who have gone through trauma, and so we don’t want to re-traumatize the kids when asking them questions; we ask questions in a neutral manner.
“And these forensic interviews are used in the prosecution.”
San Patricio County Attorney Tamara Cochran-May was also in court and spoke on behalf of the group.
“The work of the child Advocacy Center is very important in the prosecution of the sexual assault of children cases,” Cochran-May said. “We use them also within our juvenile cases, as well as CPS.
“I think it’s very important that we help support the Child Advocacy Center in this manner.”
Commissioners said they would begin defining the county budget next week.