Across Williamson and Travis counties, organizations that counsel children following incidents of abuse and neglect are working to address what they say is a rise in reported cases.
In Travis County there were 2,157 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect reported to state protective services last year and 731 cases in Williamson County, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Monica Benoit-Beatty, executive director of the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, said population growth and community awareness have contributed to the rise in reported cases.
“Last month we saw 76 cases, and the month before we saw 56, which was a really big jump,” she said. “I think there’s more awareness [about abuse], but as the county grows, we just don’t see [the number of cases]going down.”
Benoit-Beatty said her organization handled about 700 cases last year, and about 70 percent of those were related to sexual assault.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services found that, statewide, victims of child abuse and neglect were most commonly females between the ages of 1 and 3.
“[The need for youth and family crisis services] has grown—I mean it’s really grown exponentially,” said Richard Singleton, executive director of Round Rock-based family crisis intervention nonprofit STARRY. “Especially a couple years ago with the recession, families were really struggling and still are in a number of ways. That really increased the needs for these types of services.”
This year STARRY nearly doubled its service area, Singleton said.
Patty Conner, CEO of Hope Alliance—a nonprofit that aids victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Williamson County— said her organization has also seen increased demand for services.
“We have had a constant increase in need, hotline calls were up 41 percent over the last 16 months,” she said
As the area continues to see elevated rates of reported child abuse cases, community members should be on the lookout for children giving cries for help, Benoit-Beatty said.
“The No. 1 thing is to believe the child, remain calm, and then report it and let law enforcement do the interviewing,” she said.
Area resources for children in crisis
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Williamson, Travis Counties
Services: Work with children in the custody of the state to advocate on their behalf in the legal system
How to help: Participate in volunteer opportunities (age 21 or older and pass a background check)
Contact: 512-868-2822, www.casawilco.org
Services: Manage shelter for women and children, run child advocacy program and anti-bullying campaign
How to help: Participate in volunteer and fundraising opportunities, donate items found on online wishlist
Contact: 512-255-1212, www.hopealliancetx.org
Services: Provides free counseling to children referred from schools/churches/community partners, and operates a runaway and homeless youth program
How to help: Participate in volunteer opportunities, monthly open house tours and awareness efforts
Contact: 512-246-4288, www.childrenatheartministries.org/starry-counseling-round-rock
Texas Baptist Children’s Home
Services: Provides residential care and counseling services for youths ages 5-17 who have experienced some type of family conflict or abuse
How to help: Participate in volunteer opportunities
Contact: 512-255-3682, www.tbch.org
Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center
Services: Receive cases from Child Protective Services or law enforcement, conduct forensic interviews and provide counseling for youth victims of abuse
How to help: If a community member suspects a child is a victim of abuse, call the crisis hotline at 800-252-5400
Contact: 512-943-3701, www.wilcocac.org