As a place of “justice and healing” for sexually and physically abused children in Montgomery County, Children’s Safe Harbor will provide even more comfort and help in its new, larger facility.
Now, the agency – which combines forensic interviews and examinations with counseling for children and their families – has nearly five times the space at its new campus, located at 1519 Oddfellow St. in Conroe. The campus officially opened Friday, during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, with a dedication and open house.
Montgomery County commissioners approved buying the location, a former church with 15,759 square feet, when CSH outgrew its 3,300-square-foot facility on Lewis Street.
The agency then was able to raise funds for renovations and equipment through a capital campaign.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador first learned about Children’s Safe Harbor when its director, Dr. Victoria Constance, called about a drainage problem at the Lewis Street building, he said Friday.
“I didn’t know if I could help or not. It began a relationship,” said Meador, fighting back tears. “I used to go there … and it was packed. You’d see all those pictures kids had done and I’d go back out in my truck and I’d cry. They take children who are damaged and make them whole.
“We’re all God’s children, and some of us are pulled aside to do God’s work. I think you’ve all been pulled aside.”
CSH served 354 clients in 2009, according to information from Montgomery County United Way, and is projected to serve 388 in 2010 and 428 in 2011.
Part of the campus includes a Children’s Protective Services office, which has a garden dedicated to the memory of Terry Leigh Bailey.
Bailey, a CPS worker, died in July 2007 when she was struck with a frying pan and then set on fire by her boyfriend, John Marshall Dodd. He is now serving a 75-year prison sentence.
The campus also includes a room for medical examinations, including a secure forensic digital imaging camera, which provides high-contrast photos of injuries to law enforcement and attorneys, said Ward Allen, who was showing what the camera can do to attendees.
“The older technology is 85 years old,” he said. “This is just under 5,000 percent better.”
The photos, which in their original state cannot be altered or manipulated, are securely stored at CSH and can be sent wirelessly to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
“Now defense and prosecution experts are looking at the same thing and agreeing on what they see,” Allen said.
The agency has on its staff a services coordinator, three forensic interviewers, three licensed professional counselors, a medical director and a sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator, according to its website at www.childrenssafeharbor.org.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office also will soon have a prosecutor dedicated solely to child sexual abuse cases, Constance told dedication attendees.
CSH is “an energy, a spirit” that grows and moves, Constance said.
“What we’re dedicating is ourselves … our hearts, our time, our energy and our effort,” she said. “If you do not know something about child abuse, you’ve been blessed.
“It’s a movement that offers justice and healing.”
Nancy Flake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.