The Department of Family Protective Services confirmed 66,382 victims of child abuse or neglect in 2018, according to a county proclamation. Three hundred twenty of those cases were in Ellis County, and among the first to respond to those matters is the Ellis County Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Advocacy Center’s work was recognized during the Ellis County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday at the Ellis County Courthouse. County judge Todd Little paid tribute to the Advocacy Center’s work while reading a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
“Child abuse and neglect is a serious problem – affecting every segment of our community,” Little remarked. “Finding solutions requires input from everyone in our community.”
The Children’s Advocacy Center was founded in 1999 to respond to child abuse cases that take place in Ellis County. According to the organization’s website, the nonprofit organization’s resources include counseling referrals, crisis intervention. and medical and court accompaniment.
“We want to focus on the needs of children and families and really have an investment,” executive director Leslie Deen expressed.
Over 58,432 children received critical services at a children’s advocacy center throughout the state of Texas in 2018, according to the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Ellis County-based center assisted 244 of those children in 2018 along with their families, according to the proclamation.
In addition to their regular services, the center provided 396 forensic interviews in 2018 — a 13 percent increase from the previous year. They have also conducted over 520 hours of free child and adult therapy sessions in 2018.
One hundred children are currently on the waitlist for mental health services, according to Deen. She said they’re looking to increase the number of therapists throughout the year, and they’re additionally looking to potentially open satellite locations in Ennis and Midlothian.
“We work to build communities in our whole county, including school districts, police departments, the sheriff’s office, the DA’s office,” Deen expressed. “We work really hard to reach those relationships and work more effectively and efficiently for the children.”
Little commended Deen and the center for their proactive work throughout the year and encouraged residents to become a part of the solution to child abuse in Ellis County.
“Every child deserves a safe, child-friendly environment to tell their story,” he expressed. “It’s pretty amazing what they do over there for those kids.”
The commissioners’ court also unanimously approved the order and placement of four historic plaques at the courthouse. The approved plaques include the State Antiquities Landmark and National Register of Historic Places Plaques, which would be installed in the exterior, and the 150th-anniversary declaration from 1999 framed, which would be installed on the interior wall.
Pct. 3 County Commissioner Paul Perry remarked that some residents might ask how the plaques are a worthwhile purchase for the county. Perry iterated that much foot traffic comes into the Historic Courthouse, and additions such as the plaques would help keep up its appearance.
“It’s an economic driver,” Perry stated. “This courthouse brings constant tourism into Waxahachie.”
The total costs for these plaques are $3,050. Installation would take four to six weeks.