Dallas County

Nonprofit Helps Teens Find Healing During Spring Break

Dallas Children's Advocacy Center is hosting a unique camp for youth recovering from cases of abuse

NBC Universal, Inc.

North Texans are spending their spring break in different ways.

Some are using this time to find healing.

All week, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center is hosting a unique camp for teens recovering from cases of abuse.

“All of the girls that are here this week have witnessed some sort of traumatic event and they’re working through their trauma symptoms around that event,” said Mindy Jackson, director of support services for DCAC.

DCAC is the only agency of its kind in Dallas County fighting cases of criminal child abuse. They read every report of child abuse made in Dallas County, which translates to about 30,500 reports each year.

Their team then works with law enforcement, Children Protective Services and other partner agencies to coordinate those cases and care for those children and families.

“All of our services are free and children can come here with their caregivers to participate in therapeutic healing,” said Jackson.

The center is wrapping up another year of CHAMP Camp, with CHAMP standing for Children Healing from Abuse with Maximum Potential.

On the last day of camp Wednesday, the staff held a celebration lunch and graduation ceremony for the campers.

“The first day, they are a little more reserved and a little nervous. But by today, they’re high-fiving and loving each other because it feels very normalizing that they get to be around other kids that have gone through similar situations,” said Jackson.

This free camp is for young girls, ages 13 to 15, who have experienced criminal child abuse in Dallas county and have concluded investigations with police and CPS. It’s not open to the public and is only for children who are already engaged in services with DCAC.

Now, they're using this special time during spring break to move forward with recovery.

“We talk about self-esteem, we talk about coping skills, we share thoughts and ideas with one another,” said camp leader Farley Morris.

Morris works with other camp staff to walk the campers through team-building activities from planting seeds of hope in their garden to building affirmation jars and other crafts.

“I do get to see them share those things and feel validated. And get to see evidence of ‘I’m not alone in this. I’m not the only one who has experienced something like this,’” said Farley.

There’s concern that the number of reports of abuse are increasing due to the pandemic and economic stresses over the last two years.

“Right now, we are seeing an influx in physical abuse cases, we have seen an increase in domestic violence,” said Jackson. “I don’t have the reason of why that is happening but we all are living in a place where things are hard. Stress is hard, money is short. Money is tight. Which can increase the chaos in the home.”

That’s why DCAC has also provided financial support and supplies like clothes, toys, school supplies and other needs for children to help them on the road to recovery from traumatic situations.

“With inflation, items are harder to purchase. For some of our families that participate in the mainstream resources and benefits through the state – those have ended,” said Jackson.

But there is hope and it does get better. That’s the message staff hopes these campers will walk away with this week.

“It's just a really, really fun energy to just enhance that healing that they’re working on and their therapy services here and really just for children to have fun,” said Jackson. “It’s refreshing and so amazing to get to see the girls come in and they can be around like-minded children.”

DCAC will prepare to hold a similar camp for boys and another for elementary-aged children in the summer.

For more information about DCAC and volunteer opportunities, click here.

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