Bexar County's only child advocacy center, ChildSafe, has announced a realignment to serve more children, but there are some challenges in the move.
For 23 years, ChildSafe has served child victims of sexual abuse, but the now it's expanding to provide services for children of physical abuse and neglect. The organization is one of the last advocacy centers in Texas to expand to this role.
President Kim Abernethy said she thinks that is because the center started with a major focus on sexual abuse.
"Over time it's just we didn't look at, 'Does it makes sense to expand our mission?' and we did that now," Abernethy said.
Two Bexar County sheriff's deputies are devoted to ChildSafe, but money for the realignment will be a big key.
Abernethy raises $5 of private money to every $1 it gets from the state. With 1,800 new sexual abuse victims each year, Abernethy wants to increase services by more than 17 percent to reach out to physically abused and neglected children.
Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said there will be more law enforcement training that will help identify suspects and their victims.
"I've made it a priority for domestic violence, and that includes -- that covers -- the whole spectrum from child abuse, spousal abuse, as well as elder abuse," Pamerleau said.
Even though Harris County in Houston is four times the size of Bexar County, Abernethy said Bexar County has the highest number of sexual abuse cases.
The organization saw nearly 6,000 sexual abuse and neglected victims in 2011.
- ChildSafe is online at: www.childsafe-sa.org
- Phone ChildSafe at: 210-675-9000
- Bexar County Family Justice & Victim Protection Center: 210-335-2865
- Rape Crisis Center 24-hour Hotline: 210-349-7273