Just a few weeks into her employment, Christy Robinson would love to work herself out of a job.
That's because Robinson wishes the agency she works for, the Heart of Texas Child Advocacy Center, or CAC, wasn't necessary.
Robinson was hired recently as executive director of the Heart of Texas CAC, which is scheduled to open in May. Housed in Early, the Heart of Texas CAC will serve Brown and Mills counties. Most of the workload will directed toward children who are victims of sexual abuse.
Robinson, a graduate of Zephyr High School, is a licensed professional counselor who, until recently, had a counseling service. She saw mostly children, and many of them were sexual abuse victims.
The CAC has a budget for its first year of operation of $110,000. Half is from a state grant and half will come from local money including private donations and contributions from local government entities. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the CAC will ask local churches to consider taking up special offering for the CAC, Robinson said.
According to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. website:
A CAC provides a safe, child-friendly environment where law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health professionals may share information and develop effective, coordinated strategies sensitive to the needs of each unique case and child.
Local CACs provide an array of child-focused services including:
• Specialized forensic interviewing
• Medical/mental health assessments and treatment
• Multidisciplinary Team Case Reviews
• Comprehensive advocacy services
The CAC will see children who are victims of other abuse or neglect, have witnessed violent crime or are victims of abduction, Robinson said.
The CAC's primary role is to have a forensic interview, which, Robinson said, "is the first step in finding out the details and what may have happened to the child."
Interviews are observed from another room by representatives of law enforcement and CPS.
The CAC follows the family through prosecution and referrals, and a family advocate acts as liaison between family and law enforcement, CPS and district attorney's office, Robinson said. The CAC also facilitates monthly case reviews.
A CAC was open here briefly last year as a satellite office of the Hill Country Child Advocacy Center, housed in Burnet, but closed due to lack of funding. Local officials began efforts to charter a CAC here that would be its own entity.
In October, Robinson said, local officials asked her to consider applying for the job of executive director of the CAC.
"It's pretty dominant here," Robinson said of child sexual abuse. "I'd like to be part of seeing it stopped."
Robinson will initially act as the CAC's forensic interviewer, although plans are to hire someone later who will have that role. Robinson said she attended training in Austin to learn to be a forensic interviewer, and it is much different from her previous role as a counselor.
"It's much more detail oriented," Robinson said. "You have to remain neutral in forensic counseling. You're gathering facts and details."
In counseling, she said, "you're dealing with feelings" rather than details of what happened.
"It would be great if we could work ourselves out of a job," Robinson said. "That's really our goal, is to end it.
"It can be depressing. I just look at it as putting bad guys away."
The CAC here anticipates seeing 200 children a year, Robinson said.
It is located in a converted home in a rustic setting on the east edge of Early, off Highway 377. The CAC home is next to the Hope for Tomorrow agency, which rents the home and subleases it to the CAC.