President of the Board of Directors
I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.
Tina Martin, Past President and Serving Member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties (CACHSC), spoke to the team here at CACHSC about her work with the Center and the experiences that have inspired her in her role.
“Every day since joining the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties, I remember this quote and I think, ‘I cannot change what happened to them, but I will do everything in my power to help them not to be reduced by it.’”
Keep reading to learn more about child advocate and community leader Tina Martin’s history with CACHSC and the life-changing support the Center gives to children and families in the area.
A Background in Helping Children in Jeopardy
Tina spoke about how she came to join the Board of Directors for CACHSC, with her determination to “help those who can not help themselves, especially children.”
“I cannot stand injustice,” she told us, “I had a strong interest in criminology and corrections and went on to achieve my masters. My desire always was to work with children who were entering the justice system.”
Tina moved to the Valley where she was hired by a grant program called Image Youth Services, serving children “teetering on going into the system.” She began one-on-one counseling with the children and became Director of the Image Center in McAllen.
“That was when I began to realize the number of children, male and female, that were being assaulted that no one would acknowledge; the taboo of the industry and community.”
There From the Start: The Innovative Roots of the Children’s Advocacy Center
Thanks to her background in criminology and time counseling children, Tina was approached by CACHSC to join the very first Board of Directors in 2000. She spoke about the game-changing approach to combating abuse that CAC established.
“Prior to this time, there were no programs dealing with children who were not in the system and were sexually assaulted. There were pre-delinquent programs and programs for children already in the criminal system,” Tina recalled. “CAC was an innovative idea to help families and children reporting abuse to law enforcement, to be interviewed, counseled, and heard without judgment, and to get not only closure but to have their cases heard in court.”
“To treat families and children with dignity, involve law enforcement, Child Protective Services, and follow through with prosecution, was a new concept. An all-inclusive approach with everyone working together for the best of the child. Reading the signs, hearing the outcry. The child being listened to by a forensic interviewer, recorded with the help of law enforcement, and receiving sexual assault exams and counseling. This program was hearing children and not turning their back on the truth.”
Milestones and Achievements for CACHSC
From her perspective on the Board of Directors, Tina spoke about what she considers to be the most critical achievements and milestones of the Center.
“The number one milestone is when the community and country began to realize that child sexual assault and trafficking were real and occurring in larger numbers than previously thought. The Children’s Advocacy Center played a large part in this awareness. [Child sexual assault] was investigated and documented and was no longer in a closet.”
“When the State of Texas Children’s Advocacy Center began using our Center for pilot programs because of the success of our work, that was a real measure of success. Our numbers are up there with Dallas, and yet we do more with less funding.”
Finally, Tina said it was a real milestone when the District Attorney’s Office created a division for crimes against children.
Making a Difference Through Community Partnerships
“None of the successes of the CAC would exist without our partners,” Tina remarked, highlighting the Center’s work with the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, local police departments, Child Protective Services, cities, and county government.
“We have collaborated with departments to get trafficked children back from other states and countries, we have collaborated to get children being trafficked removed from their smugglers. We have worked with agencies to remove predators from houses and let children be heard. We provided education for organizations and schools.”
Tina also stressed the importance of partnerships with businesses and individuals in the community through fundraising, particularly the annual Vinos fundraiser event.
“We survive on grants and funding but these require local support. For every dollar we make in the community, we get four back in grant and program funding.”
Hopes for the Future: Bringing Healing and Justice to Children with CACHSC
Finally, Tina explained her biggest hopes and dreams for the future of CACHSC. She spoke about the importance of educating the public about what CACHSC does and how it uses its services. She hopes that CACHSC will be able to afford to expand its center and bring on more staff to support more children and families.
Above all, Tina spoke of her “eternal wish… that there would be no more pain for children and families for such a selfish and horrendous crime.”
“How can other business and community leaders play a part in helping make this vision a reality? Learn more about what the Children’s Advocacy Center does in our community,” Tina stressed. “Please learn to be alert and aware of situations that don’t feel right. We need the support of the business community, our government agencies, and individuals. Support our fundraisers and, if interested, see about serving on our Board. We are truly about Hope, Healing, and Justice. Hope for a better tomorrow, Healing, and Justice for those who have been abused.”