While nothing is bright about child abuse, there is a beam of hope for many abused children through services provided by a national and international organization also found in Wilco.
The Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, led by CEO Kerrie Stannell, offers intervention services to victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse, from birth to 17.
Centers like the WCCAC originated in 1985 through the leadership of former Alabama Congressman Robert E. “Bud” Cramer who envisioned a coordinated system of services for abused children.
His efforts led to the creation in 1985 of the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The innovative approach of combining law enforcement, criminal justice, child protective services, medical and mental health workers into one local team began then.
Today there are more than 1,000 Children’s Advocacy Centers throughout the United States and in more than 33 countries. Texas has 71 CACs, including our own WCCAC that opened in 1997 in Georgetown.
Our center has 22 full-time and three part-time professional staff members, plus Charlie the Goldendoodle.
All services offered to victims and their non-offending families are free. However, the WCCAC is not a residential facility; children removed from their homes are placed with a relative or in foster care.
Law enforcement officers or CPS social workers assess each situation to determine if a child (and/or family) should be referred to the WCCAC.
Staff use extreme care to make children feel safe and comfortable.
A child first undergoes a forensic interview with one of four interviewers, including a Spanish bilingual person.
Three observation rooms are paired with three interview rooms to allow law enforcement and CPS workers to view live interviews on closed circuit TV.
The video-recorded interviews can assist later with investigating and prosecuting these cases.
Recorded interviews also reduce the number of times a child must repeat the account, lessening the child’s stress and the potential that the child might inadvertently omit or change some detail.
In 2018, the center provided 812 forensic interviews, with 21 percent for ages 0-5, 35 percent for ages 6-11, and 44 percent for ages 12-17.
Of these interviews, 506 children were interviewed for suspected sexual abuse, 161 for suspected physical abuse and 145 for at-risk categories, including witnessing crimes.
The WCCAC also provided advocacy services to 454 families that year.