Much is needed, Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County Executive Director Tammy King said, but no donation is too small and every cent collected helps benefit area children in need.
“This is me standing as boldly as I can on behalf of the kids who can’t fight for themselves to ask everyone in the community to consider making some kind of gift to the campaign,” King said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s $5, $20, $100 or $10,000. It all counts toward helping our kids and it all brings us $1 closer to getting this new building to ensure we don’t have to put kids in need on a waiting list because we don’t have space for them.”
King and others associated with CAC spoke during Friday’s monthly breakfast of Pinnacle Club 50.
About $1 million is needed before construction of the new building can begin of which about $400,000 has already been pledged.
“We set a goal of $1 million in liquid cash because we don’t want to get into start/stop situations once we begin construction,” CAC Development Director Kevin Sellers said. “So now we’re going out to the community, knocking on doors to try to raise the rest of the funding.”
The new facility triples the size of CAC’s current home at about 16,500 square feet versus 5,207 square feet.
The need is urgent, said King, who has served as executive director since 2000.
“When I started we had four employees and saw about 15 to 20 new felony cases a month,” King said. “Now we’re seeing 70 on average. That’s felony level but we have a lot of other cases that come in as well.”
The center’s immediate staff now totals 16 in addition to volunteers and more than 40 professionals from the areas of law enforcement, medical, prosecutors, child protection and juvenile services who also interact with the center.
“All of those agencies have staff specifically assigned to [CAC] cases,” King said. “Over a third of our regular staff are licensed professional therapists. We perform more than 350 individual therapy sessions a month and 34 percent of the kids who come in our door are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have already attempted to harm themselves.”
King requested prayers for the staff, professionals and volunteers at CAC.
“It takes a really unique group of people to do this kind of work,” King said. “They see so much of the evil and ugliness of the world. They truly combat the most horrible evil everyday. Every time you think it can’t get worse you open up a new case file and hear a child’s story and how the people they should be able to trust the most are the ones violating and betraying their trust.”
The center deals with child victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and those who have witnessed homicides or other violent crimes.
“It takes a lot of love, talent and energy poured into these kids to help turn their lives around,” King said. “But everyday we also see phenomenal things happening to our kids through our programs.”
King said the center has moved four times since she’s been on staff, and never to a new facility.
“We’ve had to find a new location and essentially repurpose it and try to make it fit our needs,” King said.
A growing case load and lack of space have put the center’s intern program in jeopardy. Staff have also run out of room to ensure separation of families.
“You have a family coming in for the first time in total crisis with their world turned upside down,” King said. “Then those who have been coming for a while and the kids are comfortable, know where the snacks are and the staff members by name. The challenge is we no longer have room to separate them. We’ve put staff three in an office to create space in other offices just to be able to separate families.”
Step by step
CAC enters their capital campaign debt free, Sellers said.
They purchased 10 acres of property on Country Club Road adjacent to Cleburne Christian Academy and have paid the mortgage off on their current location.
“Cleburne Christian had planned to build an educational facility there but ended up not going through with that,” Sellers said. “The good thing for us is that they poured a 30,000-square-foot slab with utilities already there.”
Phase 2 involves the capital campaign and construction of the new facility. Phase 3, which is several years off, involves expanding the new facility.
Sellers commended architect Bob Durham for donating his “God-given talents and architectural experience” to assist in the project.
Durham displayed drawings of the proposed facility.
“I worked with staff and the committee to develop a building program. We want a smart, contemporary building. Not for ornamentation but in order to create a calm, relaxed, safe and private environment for the children in need.”
A hall, dubbed the Bridge, will separate the forensic interview and assessment areas from the counseling, therapy and play areas.
“Sort of a metaphysical transitioning from assessment getting these kids the help they need,” Durham said.
The move will also, Sellers said, provide a “forever home” for CAC with room for future growth and a facility designed specifically to meet the needs and challenges of serving children in need.
For information or to make a donation, contact CAC at 817-558-1599.