At Children’s Alliance of South Texas (CAST), children are given the opportunity for healing and justice to begin after enduring a lot in their young lives – physical and sexual abuse; the witnessing of a crime; exploitation through the internet, child pornography, the risk of abuse and neglect and human trafficking. CAST plays a unique role in providing comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to these child victims.
During Commissioners Court Monday morning, CAST Secretary Kristie West introduced Executive Director Alexandra Torres and Clinical Coordinator Kasey Brown, who provided an update on statistics since they opened their building in Jourdanton back in 2018. CAST President and 81st Judicial District Attorney Audrey Gossett Louis was also in attendance.
“Thank you to the county for supporting us to get us into the building we’re in now,” said West. “Unfortunately, Atascosa [County] still has our highest numbers. So we need to bring more awareness to the county about what we’re doing to stop child abuse, sexual abuse.”
Torres reported since April 2018, Atascosa County has had an increase in numbers locally:
• Forensic Interviews show CAST has seen 248 children
• 35 percent have made an outcry of abuse
• 1,900 counseling sessions
• In 2019, 743 sessions were held at the Jourdanton location alone.
• 65 sexual assault exams in 2019
“Child abuse or not, it’s our job to bring awareness to the community to know the signs of child abuse,” said Torres. “We provide resources to the community through presentations and sessions to keep the community informed on what to look out for.”
Brown then spoke about the therapy component at CAST by providing reports on a few cases they have seen.
“You can see how their scores have changed over the time we’ve been working with them,” said Brown. “A lot of the time, these children don’t express their abuse right away, but they show the signs. It’s our job to help them realize that trauma and help them begin to heal.”
She spoke about an 8-year-old client who was abused by her mom’s boyfriend in Kindergarten. However, she did not start to develop the symptoms until much later when she was in third grade. Some of the symptoms to look for in children who’ve experienced abuse is anxiety, depression, disassociation, sexual concerns and distress, with sexual concern being the highest score CAST has seen.
With the growing number of cases in Atascosa County, CAST is looking to expand their counseling services. They are looking to purchase the vacant building currently adjacent to theirs and combining the two properties with an outdoor playground and privacy fence.
“We just wanted to thank Commissioners Court for your continued support and express our need to expand our services,” said West.
Get involved with CAST today by going to their website, www.castac.org or call (830) 393-6290. Remember, you are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911. For all other cases in Texas, call the abuse and neglect hotline at 800-252-5400.