This past September 5th and 6th, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties (CACHSC) held the 7th annual Joining Forces Conference in Edinburg. During the event, the many different professionals who work together to combat child abuse across Hidalgo and Starr Counties gathered to share information and recognize outstanding members who contribute greatly to our efforts.

Learn more about this year’s Joining Forces Conference.

What Is the Joining Forces Conference?

The Joining Forces Conference draws members of law enforcement, Child Protective Services (CPS) agents, representatives from the district attorney’s office, and the dedicated staff members of CACHSC.

This year, more than 150 individuals attended the event, during which members learned about the work being done by other local partner agencies, heard updated strategies for combating abuse, and gained valuable tools to help our community’s young victims.

Key Takeaways From Joining Forces 2023

During this year’s event, keynote speaker Hope Palacio discussed the importance of effective communication and collaboration in the fight against child abuse, reminding members that their work is more than just a job — it’s a mission to protect and support children.

Presenters also spoke about the different roles filled by various team members and the importance of the free exchange of information. Presentations also discussed the significance of the work done by CACHSC to coordinate the fight against abuse.

Workshops were held on a wide range of topics, from mental health and forensic interviews to victim support and the legal side of child abuse cases.

How Are Award Recipients Selected?

Along with providing education, the conference is also held to award special recognition to those who have gone above and beyond in their work to combat child abuse. Recipients of the Multidisciplinary Team Awards are chosen for their exceptional contributions to the fight against child abuse, and the award is a special honor for professionals across all fields.

Your 2023 Joining Forces Award Recipients

Recipients for the 2023 Multidisciplinary Team Awards were chosen from amongst law enforcement agencies, CPS agents, district attorney offices, and the CACHSC staff. This year’s recipients include:

  • Law Enforcement Investigator of the Year — San Juan PD Corporal Yessenia Hernandez
  • CPS Investigator of the Year-Starr — Carolina Gallo – Unit 20
  • CPS Investigator of the Year — Heriberto Martinez – Unit 00
  • Law Enforcement New Investigator of the Year — Meredith Serna – Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office
  • CPS New Investigator of the Year — Lily Maldonado – Unit 30
  • Medical Service Award of the Year — Sally Pena – DHR
  • MDT Service Award of the Year — Juan Carlos
  • Volunteer of the Year — Israel Hernandez – Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office
  • Prosecutor of the Year-Juvenile — Chief Assistant Criminal DDistrict Attorney Joel Garcia
  • Prosecutor of the Year — Assistant Criminal District Attorney Nicole Rodriguez
  • Agency of the Year — CPS – Unit 33
  • Agency of the Year — Mario Ramirez Probation Department
  • Estrella Award — Jacqueline Jimenez
  • CACHSC Rising Star Award — Jennifer de la Rosa
  • CACHSC Leader Award — Irasema Cardoza
  • CACHSC Excellence Award — Ashley Lopez

Do Your Part To Fight Child Abuse: Support the Children’s Advocacy Center of Starr and Hidalgo Counties

The Joining Forces Conference highlights the essential role CACHSC plays in the fight against child abuse. We work to coordinate the efforts of many other agencies, from law enforcement to CPS, to help improve the response to child abuse cases. You can do your part to combat child abuse by helping to support this multidisciplinary community effort.

Every dollar you give to CACHSC stays in our community and goes towards preventing abuse and improving the lives of victims of child abuse. Get involved because, together, we can work to help break the cycle of child abuse in Hidalgo and Starr Counties.