For The Kids: Groups sign multiyear agreement

Published on Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:17 - Written by By Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County, law enforcement agencies and other nonprofits signed a three-year contract on Wednesday to work together to make children’s abuse cases easier on the child.

“These partnerships are really at the core of what we do,” said Terri Smith, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center. “(Law enforcement officers) are at the front lines and we support you. With the county continuing to experience an increase in the reporting of child abuse, this agreement is one of great importance in order to serve and protect the children in our community.”

Recognizing that many agencies that respond to child abuse cases are not equipped for the child victim, Smith County has developed a multidisciplinary team approach to the investigation of child sexual and physical abuse, according to the written release.

To facilitate this team approach, the Children’s Advocacy Center will enhance the cooperation and coordination of those involved in the protection of children. The partner agencies agree upon and sign an interagency agreement to this effect every three years.

“It’s very difficult when a child has been through a tragedy; this organization is so important,” Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said. “When I came up in law enforcement in the ’70s, we didn’t have anything like this. It’s a great relief.”

The partnership agreement is between the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County; Arp Police Department; Bullard Police Department; Department of Family and Protective Services; Child Protective Services; Andy Dunklin, Smith County Constable; East Texas Medical Center; Henry Jackson, Smith County Constable; Lindale Police Department; Overton Police Department; Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office; Smith County Sheriff’s Department; St. Paul’s Children’s Foundation; Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics; Troup Police Department; Tyler ISD Police Department; Tyler Police Department; Whitehouse Police Department and Winona Police Department.

“The Children’s Advocacy Center is dedicated to child victims of physical and sexual abuse and strives to reduce trauma through a unified effort that facilitates thorough investigations, effective prosecutions and the healing of the children and their families,” read the release. “At the Children’s Advocacy Center, families find support and resources in one central location, where there is love for children, passion for justice and vision for restored childhood.”

Since 1996 the CAC has collaborated on 6,284 cases of alleged child abuse and provided services for 8,728 children in Smith County. The center saw almost 400 cases last year.

If you suspect child abuse, please call the Child Protective Service Hotline at 1-800-252-5400, local law enforcement, or the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County at 903-533-1880 for more information on how to make a report on suspected abuse.