The number of child abuse cases in Denton County, including The Colony, continues to increase.
Amy Ferdinando, director of development for the Children’s Advocacy Center for North Texas – formerly known as Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County – discussed the growing numbers with The Colony City Council at last week’s meeting.
The mission of the Children’s Advocacy Center for North Texas is to empower child abuse victims, their families and the community through education, healing and justice.
The nonprofit has locations in Lewisville and Denton, and it recently opened up a facility in Bridgeport in Wise County.
Ferdinando said in 2020 there were 93 children from The Colony who received services from the center. That’s a 28-percent increase from 2019 when the center helped 70 children from the city.
“While the stressors of COVID have put the physical abuse through the roof – we were up 260 percent last year – there’s another reason why we’re seeing a huge influx in cases,” Ferdinando said. “It’s because wherever there are families there are family crimes. And there are a lot of families in The Colony.”
Ferdinando said overall the center is working more cases and seeing more children than ever before.
In 2020 the center coordinated 1,842 cases, conducted 1,218 forensic interviews and provided 14,309 therapy sessions. In total the center served 3,745 clients.
She said that’s why community support is important.
“Advocacy centers really can’t exist without that community part of it,” Ferdinando said.
Joe Perez, director of community relations for the city, said The Colony has provided financial support to the advocacy center since 2010. He said the money provided ranges from $30,000 to $40,000 a year depending primarily on the prior year’s utilization.
“We wouldn’t be surprised to see this year’s request go over that range given the increase in domestic related issues and crimes occurring as a result of COVID that has been widely documented and reported on,” Perez said.
Cities typically fund nonprofit organizations during the budget season, which concludes in the late summer.
Ferdinando said some of the nonprofit’s roles include going to schools and educating students about child abuse.
“When a child has what’s called an adverse childhood experience, which child abuse is a big one of those, typically they grow up to be adults that do not have the life expectancy that other adults have who have not had as many childhood adverse experiences,” Ferdinando said. “So they’re at a higher rate of crime, they have more mental health problems, they actually don’t reach their potential. We’re there to provide that mental health and family services to reduce the trauma to improve outcomes.”
Ferdinando said one in 10 children will be victims of child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
“And of that one in 10, only one in 10 will tell,” Ferdinando said. “So if you can think of how many kids are out there with this secret that they’re holding on to, we want to normalize it and get them into the center to get them the healing that they need.”