Dan Powers said one of his most impactful experiences during his 23 years at Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County was watching a 10-year-old child walk out of a courtroom with her arms raised high in the air after testifying against her abuser.
“He took my voice away, but I have it back now,” the child said.
Powers, who currently serves as Chief Operating Officer, said that story is what CACCC exists to do: give victims of child abuse their voices back.
The advocacy center is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization providing hope to children and families victimized by child abuse. What makes the center unique is its collaboration with other agencies. For example, the center partners with law enforcement, child protective services, medical providers and the Collin County District Attorney’s office, Powers said.
Bringing all of those organizations together under one roof increases effective communication and minimizes trauma. Through this collaborative approach, investigators and detectives are able to complete investigations more effectively and expeditiously, leading to stronger cases for prosecution.
One of the first services a child receives when visiting the center is a forensic interview. Forensic interviews are legally justifiable, fact-finding interviews with a child that are conducted by specially trained professionals at the request of law enforcement or child protective services.
The goal of a forensic interview is to collect vital information from a child in a neutral, non-leading way to be utilized during a child abuse investigation. The forensic interview takes place in a room with a white board, so the child can draw pictures to tell their story. Interviews are recorded to minimize the number of times a victim must detail their trauma.
“Often, this is the first time a child has told anybody in detail what happened to them,” Powers said. “We provide a child-friendly environment that feels safe for them to be able to tell their story.”
The center also provides family advocacy and support services. These services are designed to meet short and long-term needs of children and their non-offending caregivers. Family advocates guide the child and their non-offending family members through the entire process, Powers said.
The advocacy center also offers therapeutic counseling. The center’s therapy staff are specially trained in trauma-focused therapy. These services are offered to children and their non-offending family members at no cost, for as long as they are needed.
“Trauma can affect your whole life,” Powers said. “Once a child is a client of ours, they are a client for the rest of their lives, and they can come back any time they need to.”
In addition to offering services to victims of abuse, CACCC also has a Community Education Program to educate the community on how to recognize signs of abuse and prevent it from happening.
All services provided at the center are provided at no cost, which means the center relies on funding and support from the community to carry out their mission of providing safety, healing and justice to children victimized by abuse or neglect in Collin County.
One of the ways the center does this is through their annual fundraising gala. CACCC hosts the event in April as part of Prevent Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
This year’s gala will take place at The Star in Frisco on April 22. The event is Monopoly-themed and will feature a silent auction showcasing unique items and experiences, a live auction, a gourmet dinner and a band.
“To prevent child abuse, we have to get the word out that it exists,” Powers said. “There’s a lot of denial about child abuse, especially in affluent areas. Child abuse does exist here in Collin County, and it’s up to us to notice and do something about it,” Powers said.
Powers said although the work CACCC does can be difficult, making a difference in children’s lives makes it all worthwhile.
“Evil doesn’t win here,” Powers said.
To learn more about Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County and to buy tickets to the annual gala, visit www.caccollincounty.org/.
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