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Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center gives kids a safe place amidst the storm

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

BURNET — A safe haven. That was the purpose 20 years ago behind the creation of The Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center, which serves abused children.

“We’re the first line of defense,” Executive Director Ronda Hostetter said. “The reason we were created was to have a safe place for kids to go. They wouldn’t have to be in a police department or scary place.”

This month is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and each week, The Picayune is highlighting an organization that works on behalf of children.

The center’s first interview of the children is observed by law enforcement and child abuse officials, Hostetter said. Child Protective Services uses the center. A joint investigation begins that includes forensic and witness interviews, gathering evidence, taking pictures and medical treatment and exam. The center coordinates the review of the case with the appropriate governmental officials.

The child and non-offending family members can receive mental health services from the center. An advocate works with the family to find resources and remains available for support.

“We’ve increased our services each year,” Hostetter said. “We really do serve a lot of kids. We’re the only (advocacy center) in six counties.”

Those counties are Burnet, Blanco, San Saba, Mason, Llano and Lampasas.

When the center was started two decades ago, it was one of the first of its kind in the state, the director said.

“One out of every 10 (children) usually tell (someone about the abuse),” the director said. “Our mission is to educate people and let them know we’re available.”

A “Day of Hope” proclamation will be read by Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger at 9 a.m. April 22 at the Burnet County Courthouse Annex, 1701 E. Polk. Afterward, blue balloons will be released to honor abused children.

The center takes donations. For more information, call (512) 756-8796 or go to www.hccac.org.

jfierro@thepicayune.com