GLEN ROSE - Earlier this month, Elizabeth Johnson, program director with the Paluxy River Child Advocacy Center (PRCAC), met with the Somervell County Commissioners Court and stated that in 2015, the center investigated 62 cases of child abuse in Somervell County with 19 of those cases being confirmed as abuse.
While there isn’t a children’s advocacy center in Glen Rose, the PRCAC in Granbury provides services for children under the age of 18 who are involved in cases related to physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect in Somervell, Hood and Erath counties.
Since several agencies are involved in investigating cases of abuse speaking to multiple people may cause further trauma to a child. One of the things the PRCAC provides is a child-friendly environment where children may be interviewed.
“The CAC model grew out of the need to collaborate, communicate and work together [with different agencies] to ensure that children found justice and got to tell their story one time and in an environment that is safe for them,” PRCAC executive director, Kerrie Stannell said.
At PRCAC a trained forensic interviewer conducts interviews one-on-one and as the interview takes place members from the various agencies take their notes via a closed circuit television. Therefore, the child has to speak to only one person during the investigation.
Families are referred to the center through CPS and law enforcement for family advocacy support, which meets the emotional, physical, financial and safety needs of those affected by abuse. Family advocates at the center offer monthly parent support groups to parents of children who have been victims of abuse.
Children’s art classes as well as an eight-week long parenting class are also provided to help families through the trauma. As part of the healing process, free trauma-focused counseling, including sand therapy, play therapy, and talk therapy, is provided to all of the children that come to the center.
Prevention education and community outreach are also important components of the PRCAC. The center wants to help people understand and recognize the signs of child abuse and the importance of reporting abuse in a timely manner to the authorities.
“Learning the signs and symptoms of child abuse is important and we are always available to teach the free classes that we offer,” Stannell stated.
The free classes offered by the PRCAC equip adults with the knowledge and the tools needed to recognize and report a case of abuse.
There are many behavioral indicators of physical or sexual abuse. Some of those include sudden non-participation in school activities, feelings of low self-worth, regressive behaviors, such as bedwetting, wetting pants, nail biting, excessive crying and clinginess, and sudden onset of fear of adults or places that were not feared before. Indicators of neglect can include malnutrition, failure to thrive, child left unattended for long periods of time, and failure to provide clothing, food, and shelter.
These are just a few signs of abuse; for the full list of indicators visit the CAC website at http://paluxyrivercac.org. If you suspect a child of being abused or neglected you can make a report online at www.txabusehotline.org or by calling 800-252-5400.
If you do suspect that a child is being abused and you want to have a conversation about it, Stannell recommends approaching the conversation with no judgment and ask open-ended questions. Once you identify that something is wrong you'll need to end the questioning and contact authorities, so that professionals can handle the case properly.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this year the center’s slogan is "Stand Up for Children." The message is meant to empower the community to be the voice of children by reporting cases of child abuse.
“One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 and those are just the numbers for cases reported,” Stannell stated. “It is an epidemic and it is something the community needs to talk about, because kids are never going to feel free to talk about it if adults can’t.”
To recognize the month, the PRCAC, in conjunction with other child service agencies will be holding various events to bring awareness to child abuse.
On Monday, April 4 at 9 a.m. the center will be placing blue ribbons with messages about child abuse prevention month around the downtown square. Friday, April 8 is National go Blue day and everyone is encouraged to wear blue in honor of child abuse victims.
On Saturday, April 9, the PRCAC’s fourth annual Blue Bolt Color 5k and 10k Run/Walk will be held at Hewlett Park in Granbury. If you are interested in participating you can register online at http://www.racedayeventservices.com/registration.
Then on Sunday, April 24, churches are encouraged to say a prayer during services for victims of child abuse for the Blue Sunday Day of prayer.
Outside of recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Month, members of the community can get involved with the PRCAC by volunteering at the center or by donating funds, which can cover anything from providing snacks and juice boxes to helping cover rent and utilities for families receiving support at the center.