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Danner: Lubbock Area United Way helps agencies serve community’s most vulnerable

October 13, 2019 | Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

By Derek Danner

Lubbock United Area Way works to address the root issues of the most significant challenges facing our South Plains communities to create lasting, positive change. One of their targeted priorities is to eliminate child abuse and sex trafficking in our community. That priority is closely aligned with the mission of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the South Plains as we work to bring together community resources to speed the healing of child victims of abuse and trauma.

Prior to joining the Children’s Advocacy of the South Plains in 2015, I worked as a peace officer for the City of Lubbock for over 26 years and had not had the opportunity to see, firsthand, the work of the United Way. While I knew of the organization and its annual campaign, I had not been personally aware of the far-reaching benefits these dollars provide to our community.

As Executive Director for the Children’s Advocacy Center, I have the opportunity to partner closely with other United Way-supported agencies as we work together to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of the most severe cases of child abuse in Lubbock. Building these partnerships allows us all to better serve our clients through the knowledge of services others provide to meet the needs of those we work with. For instance, we may learn that a child victim’s parent is in need of immediate safe housing that Women’s Protective Services can provide, or we may work with Voice of Hope for their confidential crisis assistance for a sexual assault victim and their family. Our Family Advocates work closely with these and other agencies in support of the community’s most vulnerable victims.

The United Way’s support is foundational to our work, allowing us to retain tenured staff and facility expenses rarely funded by other sources. In advocating for the safety and well-being of children the Children’s Advocacy Center of the South Plains provides forensic interviews of abused and traumatized children at the request of law enforcement and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

We coordinate multidisciplinary investigative services and facilitate the case review meetings to ensure the team is communicating and collaborating. We also provide family advocacy services, therapeutic services, court accompaniment, and courtroom testimony assistance. We assist with Crime Victims Compensation applications, provide prevention programs for children and develop and deliver community education and outreach programs on recognizing and reporting child abuse.

The center is on call 24/7 for emergency cases at the request of law enforcement and DFPS. The center offers Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (determined to be the best for the clients we serve) at no cost to the victims and their non-offending caregivers. We also offer crisis intervention for symptomatic children.

The importance of the continuation of United Way funds for the Children’s Advocacy Center is evident when you tally the work of the center. In 2018 our center’s trained forensic interviewers performed 1,130 interviews of child victims, offered education and prevention programming to 6,805 children, and worked with 192 victims and their parents to provide 1,587 counseling sessions at no charge. Sadly, these numbers are trending up and we anticipate similar or higher numbers for 2019.

When you support Lubbock Area United Way, you support community services for the most vulnerable children in our community. Our partnership with the United Way is key to our success without which we would struggle to meet the needs of those we serve. I encourage your continued support of the United Way.

Derek Danner is executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center.

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