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Advocacy center seeks donations, volunteers
WILLIAM J. GIBBS JR.
Wilson County NewsOctober 23, 2013 1,996 views 1 comment
FLORESVILLE -- A new Children’s Alliance of South Texas child advocacy center continues to take shape here.
The center will be located on the campus of the Wilson County Courthouse Annex III -- formerly the Floresville Primary Campus, in the former Mary C. Forister Center building -- on Railroad Street in Floresville. Work to renovate the building is under way, according to Mikey Betancourt, recently hired as the center’s executive director.
Betancourt comes to Floresville’s center with a decade of prior experience in such facilities in Lubbock, Williamson County, and the Hill Country region. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations, he also serves as a forensic interviewer. In this capacity, Betancourt meets with children who have reported to educators, law-enforcement personnel, or other trusted adults that they have been sexually victimized. Betancourt has performed interviews of more than 3,000 children over the course of his career.
“The kids that actually speak out are very courageous,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney Audrey Louis of the 81st Judicial District has been one of the driving forces in establishing a child advocacy center to serve the children of Atascosa, Frio, Karnes, La Salle, and Wilson counties.
“The benefit of a CAC [child advocacy center] to our children is that it prevents re-victimization of the child by eliminating multiple interviews, in which the child has to retell the horror they endured to multiple investigators -- Child Protective Services, law enforcement, school staff, et cetera --and it is done in a more child-friendly environment,” Louis said. “In addition, the free therapy services to the child victim and their families will hopefully help them to cope and heal, so they may become positive, productive members of our community.”
Renovation work currently is in the planning stages for the center’s building, which the group is leasing from the county for the next 30 years at a cost of $1 per year. Betancourt said that Jeanine Schoenert of La Vernia-based D&D Custom Homes, in cooperation with architect Arthur Campos, is recruiting individuals to donate time, money, and services toward the construction effort. While bids are being accepted from contractors, the hope is that the work can be donated or performed at cost.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Floresville has stepped up to assist the center by allowing the use of two rooms where interviews can be conducted. As of Oct. 15, Betancourt said two children had been interviewed over an eight-day period.
Additional volunteers to assist with tasks, such as answering telephones and facilitating family advocacy and support groups, also are needed. Those interested in serving will need to submit an application and undergo a background check, Betancourt said.
“The [center] cannot exist without the continued support from our strong community,” Louis said. “We ask for everyone’s continued support and efforts to make [this] a true asset to our children and their families.”
For more information, contact Louis at 830-393-2200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Betancourt’s email address is email@example.com.
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