This year, the Children’s Advocacy Center for North Texas will celebrate 25 years of protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. Since the CACNTX opened its doors in 1997, it has served more than 20,000 abused children by collaborating, educating and coordinating with local officials to make sure every child receives the justice and healing they deserve.
The center partners with front-line responders in Denton and Wise counties in a unified approach to empower child abuse victims, their families and the community.
We asked CACNTX Chief Executive Officer Kristen Howell and Director of Development Amy Ferdinando to tell us about the important work that CACNTX does in the community and how residents can contribute to the Advocacy Center’s future success.
Tell me why you believe the work of the CACNTX is important and necessary.
Amy: This work is important because child abuse may be the root of other problems we are fighting as a society. It is well known that victims of child abuse who do not receive intervention and help may have a harder time as adults, experiencing drug abuse, homelessness, mental illness and in general just not reach their full potential. If we can intervene and restore children at their core it can change the outcome of their entire lives and the lives of their children. Many of our clients suffer intergenerational abuse, but what if there was more help?
How have you seen CACNTX change the lives of children and families?
Kristen: I have the privilege of watching many cases go to prosecution. Knowing what a child looks like the first time they walk in our door when they are ready to make an outcry of abuse – and then seeing them stand up in a court a few years later, well…this is one of the greatest turnarounds I could imagine witnessing. Strength, power and resilience are on display where once there was fear, uncertainty and isolation.
What has been the community’s response to the CACNTX?
Kristen: Our community built this response – this IS the community’s response. We aren’t a governmental organization. We are the community saying that victims of crime will be taken care of. They deserve the best. They will not be forgotten and they will have their potential restored. It’s our promise and it is straight from the community. At the end of the day, I’m just a mom who is doing the right thing by a kid in need. So I hope our services look just like something I would expect for my own child.
The CACNTX will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2022. What does this milestone mean to you and the organization?
Kristen: For 25 years, this community has said to child victims of crime: We believe you, and we believe in you. I am in awe of this little organization and in awe of the way our community steps up every day to ensure that the littlest residents of Denton and Wise Counties are safer and healthier. I pray every day that we will see the eradication of child abuse in my lifetime. But until then, the Advocacy Center will be responding. Every single time to every single child victim of crime.
Tell me about the new CACNTX Auxiliary.
Amy: We will have a kick off informational meeting on Feb. 10. The Auxiliary or CAST (Children’s Advocacy Support Team) will be in charge of our Family Assistance programs. They will help organize and coordinate our Back to School and Holiday program. And throughout the year there will be other opportunities to help the Center. Their mission is to support the Center and its mission of healing and justice for children. It is a great way to get involved and get a behind-the-curtain view of the Center.
How can local residents get involved with the CACNTX?
Amy: We offer many individual, group and corporate volunteer opportunities. Also, we host an educational session! Our most popular topic for the community is “Internet Safety for kids.” It is an amazing, compelling way to learn about how to communicate with your child and set boundaries about their online use. Visit our website for more details.
What are your hopes for the future of CACNTX?
Kristen: I hope to meet the needs of families who are facing the biggest stressor one could imagine: the crime of abuse committed against their child. I never stop hoping that it won’t happen at all – that all the monsters who would hurt children would literally run from this county – that they would know we have zero tolerance for people who hurt kids. But until they all run, I want to hire the best people. I want our cities to hire the best detectives and our counties to hire the best prosecutors. I want every child who has had a crime committed against them to get best in class service. I want the impact of abuse to be minimal – part of a child’s story, but not the definition of that child.
For more information about CACNTX, visit cacnorthtexas.org.