From the outside, San Antonio is a very attractive city—it has a temperate climate, the lovely River Walk, friendly folks, a strong military presence and a healthy economy. But one statistic makes it less so—the fact that Bexar County has the highest rate of confirmed child abuse cases in Texas, even higher than Harris County, which has nearly three times as many children (BBC, 2011). Even more staggering: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in San Antonio will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
How many cases of child abuse were confirmed in the San Antonio area in 2012? 5,915. Almost 6,000 children going through unspeakable trauma. Twenty children in Bexar County died from abuse in 2011.
In 1988, a group of community physicians began to work with abused children and a task force formed to investigate how to care for these young victims. In 1992, The Alamo Children’s Advocacy Center, today known as ChildSafe, formally incorporated and received recognition from the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County for the critical safety net it provided for sexually abused children. In 1996, Baptist Children’s Home Ministries deeded 7.9 acres for a new facility to provide services on a single campus for sexually abused children and their supportive family members. Construction was completed in 1997 and services are now delivered from that site located at 7130 West US Hwy 90 in San Antonio.
Although the organization has been providing critical services to sexually abused children for 23 years, many have not heard of ChildSafe. ChildSafe is a 501 (c ) (3) organization that was created specifically to combat child sexual abuse in our community. ChildSafe is a member of The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. and is the only children’s advocacy center in Bexar County.
What do they do? They perform forensic interviews so children only have to tell their stories once. They provide crisis intervention, case management services, counseling, and advanced therapy to aid in the healing of child victims. And they work with law enforcement and prosecutors to bring perpetrators to justice.
Prior to ChildSafe’s founding, there were no city or county agencies to help child sexual abuse victims and their families through the healing process or to coordinate the long, stressful and difficult journey through the criminal and civil justice systems.
Each year, ChildSafe helps approximately 1,800 children and 2,000 non-offending family members in our community heal from abuse, navigate the complex legal system, and learn to break the cycle of abuse.
Now ChildSafe is expanding its mission to treat children traumatized by all abuse. This year the organization will provide comprehensive services to children that have been physically abused and neglected, as well as continuing its mission of providing treatment to children who have been sexually abused. As the trauma and treatment are much the same for victims of sexual and physical abuse as well as neglect, ChildSafe’s professional and progressive counseling team will be available to help all child victims of these offenses.
With this expansion, ChildSafe is writing a new chapter for the children of San Antonio by aggressively confronting child abuse and neglect in Bexar County.
Kim Abernethy, ChildSafe’s President/CEO since September, 2010, has established a new management team that focuses not only on the expansion and efficacy of services, but responsible stewardship of time and resources. Expanding the scope of services to include young victims abused sexually, physically and/or neglected illustrates the efficiency of resources utilized at ChildSafe.
“We are all aware that public dollars are dwindling, so our board and staff continue to do more with less,” said Abernethy. “Child abuse and neglect are issues that must be fought at the local level and one that needs the attention of the community at large to initiative change,” she said.
By supporting ChildSafe, you will help provide critically needed services to heal children so they can lead normal, healthy and productive lives.
Here’s how you can help ChildSafe—
· Share information about ChildSafe and their education programs with teachers, administrators, PTAs, coaches, Boy and Girl Scout troops, daycare centers, church youth groups—settings where kids spend time with adults!
· Talk aboutChildSafe’s work and outreach initiatives at your place of employment
Your involvement can help stop the cycle of abuse. By supporting ChildSafe’s efforts to deliver comprehensive, expert treatment to child survivors of abuse and neglect, you offer real hope to reduce child abuse and neglect in our community. In addition, your contribution helps fund their outreach and education programs to prevent abuse, empowering San Antonio children and their families.
For more information about ChildSafe, please call 210.675.9000 or visit their website at www.childsafe-sa.org.
To report suspected abuse or neglect, call the state Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online at TxAbuseHotline.org.