CAC seeking donations for new home
Once a young victim of child abuse graduates from Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center, he or she puts their colorful handprints on walls inside the center. The many handprints represent justice, hope and healing.
However, the wall in the center’s present location in Cleburne is overflowing and lacking space.
Now, the center and future children that come to the center are asking the community for a helping hand.
Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County is a nonprofit in operation since 1998. The center provides services to child victims that have suffered sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, witnessed a homicide or violent crime or have been found in dangerous drug environments.
In 2018 alone, the center served 1,669 child victims, an increase of 39 percent in the last four years.
And, that number is expected to have more unfortunate growth.
“The hard thing is as these cases increase, the cases are increasing for our agency partners as well.” said Tammy King, the center’s executive director. “And what we are seeing is law enforcement can’t keep up. They don’t have the resources.”
Currently, the center facilitates 17 local agencies, which includes Burleson Police Department, Johnson County Attorney and District Attorney’s offices and Cook Children’s Medical Center.
The center can receive up to 70 felony cases in a month that is handled by a staff of 16.
The Johnson County center is part of 71 such Children’s Advocacy Centers across Texas. The state association has set a goal of reaching out to 80,000 child victims of abuse by 2020.
“A child abuse case is a really complex, difficult case to work,” King said. “Just as those demands go up, so do the needs for training, the needs for additional staff. It means we need additional funding.”
Therapists at the center conducted over 3,500 child therapy sessions last year. The number of therapy sessions increased by almost 200 percent since 2014.
This February, about 50 percent of children victims that came into the center had suicidal tendencies.
“We were pretty beat down,” King said. “It’s pretty emotionally taxing when you’re dealing with that much suicidality in a month with kids.”
In an attempt to address the growth in caseloads, the center announced plans to relocate its facilities to a larger building last year.
Phase One of the relocation plan was recently completed. It involved the purchase of 10 acres of land on the south side of Cleburne and the placement of a 30,000 square feet concrete slab. The new location is already debt free.
The center is now gearing up towards Phase Two, which requires about $3 million for site construction, furnishings, mechanical and electrical needs, design, project management and utilities.
Kevin Sellers, development director at the center, is overseeing the project and the local grassroots fundraising efforts, which is also being called the Forever Home Capital Campaign.
“Our goal is to raise the first million before we start the actual construction,” Sellers said. “The last thing we want to do is start, then stop. Once we start, we want to keep going, keep that excitement going.”
The Amon G. Carter Foundation has already committed to providing some fundings. About $400,000 has already been raised towards the initial million dollars, Sellers said.
Cowboys for Kids Gala
Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County will host its Cowboys for Kids Gala on Saturday, March 23 at the Cleburne Conference Center in Cleburne to raise funds and reach and serve even more child victims of abuse.
“We have some very generous, generous sponsors and donors that help us out throughout the year,” Sellers said. “But, Cowboys for Kids will raise a significant amount of our budget.”
Cleburne Ford is one of the major sponsors for the fundraising event along with Meal-Meatmiesters, HEB, How Sweet It Is Cake Shop Bakery and Chicken Express.
Almost 20 other donors have pledged to give $2,000 or more at the event.
There will also be live auction donations of items such as: Baseball legend Nolan Ryan’s autographed jersey, tickets to see the Rangers, a “one of a kind gun”, a 5-hour guided fishing trip, and a weekend getaway trip among various others.
The event will also feature BBQ dinner, cupcake and a spirits cocktail station. A raffle and jewelry pull is also scheduled.
Becker Magic will grace the stage to entertain the guests with their magic, illusions and music.