A nonprofit is on a huge mission to brighten the holidays of thousands of abused children in Dallas County.
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center is the only agency of its kind fighting child abuse in the area.
This year, it's leaning on the community for its annual Holiday of Hope campaign.
Typically, they invite clients into their building for holiday events but they had to pivot this year due to the pandemic.
Rather than hosting an in-person shopping experience for families, DCAC is collecting donations of toys, books and pajamas to be distributed to nearly 2,000 kids.
“The holidays are a difficult time for everybody. For a lot of families, this is a stressful time and a strenuous time but we think that that’s especially true for families that are on their healing journey from child abuse," said Jenna Sampson, DCAC volunteer coordinator. "We want to give them as much love and support as we can to make this a really merry and bright season."
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DCAC reads every report of child abuse in Dallas County -- about 26,000 reports each year -- and then coordinates the cases that rise to the level of a criminal offense. The team interviews the child victim and brings together the investigative agencies like CPS and Law Enforcement and Children’s Health for the case investigation. After that, staff then provides healing services for the child victim and their non-offending family members.
Sampson said the number of families needing their services has gone up. They served over 8,000 kids in just the last year.
And since the pandemic, the organization has continued to serve clients both in person and through telehealth.
“Child abuse looks really different right now. The reports that we’re getting after the stay at home orders, we actually saw about a 40% decrease of those reports that came in. For the community, sometimes that sounds like good news but what we really know is that child abuse thrives in secrecy," she said. "And we know that home is not safe for everybody. So when kids are staying home more and they’re not in front of safe and supportive people like coaches and teachers and daycare workers that are normally making those reports, we know that some kids are in danger.”
Community organized toy drives are underway, including this recent pajama drive from the Dallas Junior Forum.
DCAC is hoping to have everything in by Friday, December 11. Then staff will start their big distribution event from December 14 to the 19th.
Parents in need of talk support can call the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736. To report abuse and neglect, call 1-800-252-5400.