Breaking the Cycle of Abuse, One Child at a time
The Children’s Advocacy Center, Estrella’s House was established in the year 2000 in tribute to Estrella Rojas, a victim of child abuse whose life ended tragically. Estrella’s memory is kept alive by helping and treating the children who are victims of abuse. Since the Center opened, over 13,000 child abuse victims have been helped.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County is dedicated to promoting awareness and providing resources for children and families affected by abuse and neglect. In the United States, 13,700 children are abused or neglected each day. Of that number, 5 children will die as a result of the abuse. Child abuse and neglect is not an isolated occurrence. It happens every single day in your own community. It may even be happening to a child you know.
We believe that no child should ever be subject to the pain of abuse or the lasting emotional trauma it leaves behind. Our mission is to reduce the emotional trauma of child abuse victims by facilitating a multidisciplinary team approach, which supports the prevention of child abuse through community education and promotes the effective prosecution of those who perpetrate crimes against children.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo provides support and assistance with:
- Child Forensic Interviews
- Child Forensic Evaluations and Assessments
- Providing A Family Advocate and a Crime Victim Liaison
- Crisis Intervention
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners
- Mental Health Services
- Prevention, Education and Outreach Programs
On this website, you will find information about our organization, news and information about child abuse, recognizing the signs of abuse and how to get help for victims. You can also help support our organization and the fight against abuse and neglect by making a monetary donation or by donating any of the special items on our wish list.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month
Things Have Changed in Texas
In recent months, there have been many news stories resulting from cases – both nationally and here in Texas – which focus on the failures within our justice system in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, particularly child sexual abuse, in the early 1980s and 90s. Like most Americans, I find myself heartbroken for the victims who did not receive the justice and healing they deserved, and equally troubled by instances involving wrongful convictions resulting from bad evidence, usually resulting from the compromised statement of a child victim or witness. However, I also find myself encouraged by the progress that has been made in the way that investigations are conducted and the modern day practices which have transformed this process.
Twenty years ago, it was not unusual for a child who had the courage to report abuse to endure interview after interview from well-meaning but often intimidating authority figures or untrained interviewers. As each interviewer pursued a different class of evidence necessary to build a case, it was not unusual for eager-to-please children to adapt their stories to unintentional cues from interviewers, resulting in conflicting accounts and compromised cases against alleged perpetrators. Likewise, interviewers often had little professional training and support on how children make disclosures and recall experiences as there was simply little research in the field.
In today’s Texas, when abuse is reported to authorities, the child will enter a collaborative network of care led by the 68 children’s advocacy centers (CACs) working throughout our state. CACs provide a neutral hub where the efforts of law enforcement, Child Protective Services, prosecution and the medical and mental health community are integrated and coordinated. At the core of their efforts is a unique tool called the forensic interview.
Created to overcome the well-intentioned yet harmful mistakes from the past, the forensic interview is conducted by experts specially trained in carefully researched techniques designed to elicit a coherent, non-leading, defensible account of the truth. Recorded on video, these interviews are utilized as evidence where they provide a consistent voice for the alleged victim throughout the legal process. There are currently over 100 professional interviewers employed at Texas CACs who undergo 40 hours of initial training prior to conducting their first interview, as well as ongoing peer review and annual continuing education. The positive impact on both the justice system and for these young victims has been nothing short of miraculous.
I am proud to say that this highly effective approach has not only been pioneered in Texas, but that the Attorney General’s Office has provided critical funding and support for its development and implementation. Across the country, other states have eagerly followed the Texas example, adopting these approaches and rescuing countless children from the horrors of abuse.
Despite our progress, there are still more than 40,000 Texas children who will enter a CAC this year due to alleged physical or sexual abuse, typically at the hands of a family member or friend. Fortunately, there are 68 CACs across Texas, leading the charge on accurately capturing their story and setting them on the path to justice and healing.
As we observe Child Abuse Awareness Month this April, I encourage all Texans to educate themselves on the warning signs of abuse so that children across our state will be heard when they courageously report. When the public knows that it’s okay to report child abuse because the systems in place do in fact work fairly for all parties, we’ll move one step closer towards eradicating crimes against children once and for all.