HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The non-profit organization, The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Cameron and Willacy Counties, visited with nearly 5,000 children of abuse and their family members in 2019.
Officials with the centers say that number unfortunately continues to grow as the need for their services continue.
The center established its first location, in 1998 with Monica’s House, in Brownsville and continues to operate. In 2001, there was a need for a second facility to serve northern Cameron County, so Maggie’s House was established in San Benito.
Maggie’s House is named after Maggie Dittman, who died at the age of 2 from baby shaking syndrome, at the hands of her babysitter.
The center’s mission is to serve and advocate for child victims of abuse through education, prevention, intervention, and recovery using a multi-disciplinary approach.
This approach allows for several agencies like Child Protective Services, and Investigators to collaborate together, and avoid revictimizing the child during the multiple investigations.
The facility was housed in portable buildings, but over the years the center outgrew the buildings. Officials say there was a lot of discomfort for staff and the families they served because of the conditions and limitations of space at the facility.
After searching for 2 years, Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen provided a solution. They donated space to the center in Harlingen next to the hospital.
The new center will allow for more staff to be hired while providing more space, and a warm environment to make children and families feel at home.
“There were so many cases, the demand for our services has increased, unfortunately. We need to add more staff to be able to see all the cases, however, we were confined by the limits of the portables the space available,” says Lizzy De La Garza Putegnat, Board President, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Cameron & Willacy Counties.
The new facility will is located next to the hospital at 2220 Haine Drive. The center’s location will provide children and families receiving treatment at the hospital, convenience because of it’s location.
The center however would like to one day have a center of their own they can call home.
“So there’s our long term goal to build a new facility. We will be launching a capital campaign to raise money for that, but we are always accepting all kinds of donations and we’re so thankful to the community for always being a champion for our mission, in particular, Valley Baptist Health Systems,” says De La Garza-Putegnat.
The centers rely heavily on community support, and because of COVID-19, they have had to cancel many fundraisers. Even with the pandemic, the staff has continued to raise awareness of child abuse, through education, intervention, prevention, and the recovery process.
If you would like to more know about the facility or would like to donate, you can click here.