The Fannin County Children’s Center reports that the number of cases they are seeing has been growing at a significant rate. Most notably, the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) received 266 new referrals in the fiscal year ending August 31, 2018. This was a 116% increase over the previous year. The CAC staff also conducted 240 forensic interviews in the same year, which was a 124% increase over the previous year when 107 interviews were done.
CAC therapists provided 959 counseling sessions, which was only slightly more than the previous year. Another notable increase was the number of special medical exams completed. Sexual abuse victims must travel to neighboring counties for these exams and last year 25 were completed, which was more than double the previous year when only 11 exams were completed.
CASA served 131 children in the past year, which marked the second year in a row for this program to set a new record for the number of children served. Overall, CASA has served 58% more children over the past two years. In the past year, CASA attended 275 court hearings, 8 family group conferences, 43 permanency conferences and 26 mediations. CASA volunteers logged in 5,744 hours and more than 47,000 miles in their advocacy for the 131 children. Volunteer hours have increased 79% over the past two years.
“The big question, of course, is why are we seeing such a significant increase?” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Fannin County Children’s Center. “I think one factor is that our local CPS office is more fully staffed and supported than they have been in the past. Another factor is that last year the Sheriff’s Office got a grant to hire an investigator who could specialize in working crimes against children cases.”
“A third factor could possibly be the #MeToo movement that started about a year ago,” said Barber. “One of the lessons learned from many of these stories is that victims sometimes did say something to someone they were close to, but no one reported the cases to the authorities who could investigate.”
In the past year, the Children’s Center also provided child abuse prevention education to 194 adults. The mission of the Fannin County Children’s Center is promoting safety and improving the lives of abused and neglected children. The center’s programs include CASA, Children’s Advocacy Center and child abuse prevention. Earlier this year, the center celebrated 25 years of serving children.
“We have been working hard to keep up with the growing need for our services,” said Barber. “We are thrilled that the Fannin County Commissioners Court has included funding in the coming year’s budget to continue the special investigator position, even though the grant was not re-newed.”
“One of the things we are also working on is finding a new, larger facility,” said Barber. The center has outgrown their current location near the courthouse in Bonham. “Community members are invited to donate to the center for North Texas Giving Day in order to help us build the dream of a new facility,” continued Barber. On September 20, donors can go to www.northtexasgivingday.org/fanninccc to make a gift for the new facility.