Children’s Advocacy Center
This week, Childhood staff visited the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Director Lynn Davis, in photo with Princess Madeleine below, shared the work at the Center helping children who have been sexually or physically abused. Staff at the center evaluate the children, prepare the information they gather for possible prosecution, and also provide comprehensive and ongoing counseling and other services to the entire families that are affected.
Ashley Lind, Clinical Director, showed us a wall with photos of dogs. The center use the dogs to reach the children, and says Dr. Lind, "it is amazing to see how children who are not able to tell us directly at first about their traumas, or relate emotionally to what has happened to them, can allow us to help them heal through their caring for a dog.” The clinical work includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and increasingly also art therapy, that has proven successful for working through abusive experiences.
There are 20,000 reported and 6,000 confirmed cases of child abuse in Dallas County each year. Child Protective Services (CPS) and law enforcement personnel are located at the DCAC, and staff work in shifts on-call 24/7 to assist children who have been traumatized.
The DCAC was founded in 1991 and is in the process of expanding their services. In September, they are moving to a new location, triple their current size, in increasing staff with 30%. The center will incorporate more CPS units and law enforcement personnel, as well as an adding a new feature – capacity to bring in perpetrators for evaluation of their crimes against children. Read more about DCAC here.
Homeless shelter for teens
Promise House is a center that was founded in 1983, and is serving a very needy population of children – homeless teens. The shelter accepts both boys and girls, and also teenage mothers. Recently, there has been a large increase in homeless teens in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and Promise House is responding "as best we can”, says Judy Wright, VP for External Affairs. Foster care and protective services ends for teens at 18 y o, and Ms. Wright shares with us that 40% of teens wh have aged out of foster care are homeless by the time they turn 20.
Nicholas Hardy has worked in the development department for almost a year. As he guides us through the center, his commitment to helping the youth that live in the shelter shines through. "We help them find themselves, find family, and live family,” he says. Even though there is a slight institutional feel to the home, the homey atmosphere prevails. And since it’s dinner-time, the smell of food adds to it!
Promise House offers both emergency and longer-term shelter for teens. Outreach services are a large part of reaching those vulnerable teens who have no one to turn to and nowhere to go, or are to afraid to access services. Read more about Promise House here.
In a beautiful setting, the Edna Gladney Center for Adoptions, offer s refuge for girls who are pregnant and are considering placing their children for adoption. Edna Gladney was founded 125 years ago, with the child in focus, and takes in girls from all over the country. They "Gladney Girls” come from a variety of backgrounds and face a variety of outcomes.
Mark Melson, EVP, and Andrea Callaway, Manager for the Maternity Residence, are showing us around the large center, built in 2002. There are 15 girls staying at the home when we visit, going to school while waiting to give birth. Adoption is the option they have chosen, but about 28% of the girls chose to parent their baby.
Edna Gladney assists both domestic and international adoptions, works with the local CPS agencies, as well as support orphanages and other services in almost 10 countries where they are currently actively facilitating adoptions. The organization is 100% funded by private donations, and receives no government funding. Read more about Gladney here.
The visit to Texas is part of a fact-finding mission to learn about the Child Advocacy Model, which Childhood support globally; and to further the efforts to invest in prevention programs to stop child sexual abuse.
The visit also included meeting with staff at organizations that help homeless children, and another organization that provides resources for teenage mothers. Teenage mothers and street children are both part of Childhood’s target groups.
Text and photos: Charlotte Brandin