By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN
My heart broke last night.
I attended a program in Athens Thursday evening called “Children First: Protected and Connected,” which included some of the organizations involved in protecting our community’s most at-risk and endangered children. On the agenda were representatives from Child Protective Services, the District Attorney’s Office, CASA of Trinity Valley, the Rainbow Room and a new Parent Collaboration Group.
The meeting was a community outreach to let people know the scope of the problem and how they can help. There were resources and information available for the community to plug in at almost every level where a child needs help.
There was even an energetic and happy young woman named Tonya Fuller who specializes in helping churches find a way to help and had a dozen different things people could do to help.
“So many people kind of go through their day-to-day and don’t really think about our kids or what they go through and we want to change that,” said CASA Executive Director Emily Heglund.
Unfortunately, nobody came.
Well, that’s not exactly true. District Attorney Mark Hall and Judge Nancy Perryman were there to show their support, as well as several caseworkers and other activists.
But everyone present was already connected. Not one person from the community, not one person from outside the system, attended.
And that is heartbreaking because the discussion centered around the major problem facing our county: illegal drugs and the carnage they create in families.
As speaker after speaker stepped to the podium, I heard about the damage being done to our community by methamphetamines and cocaine.
I heard how the number of children under 10 testing positive for meth or cocaine keeps rising.
I heard how the number of children being served by our local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is the most by a rural area in the state.
I heard how there aren’t enough foster parents in Henderson County to serve our local children and how our kids have to leave the county to find a bed.
And I heard a call for help from people who spend all their time and their own money to stand in an ever-widening gap.
But, Thursday night there was nobody there to listen.
If you’d like to find out what these folks were talking about, you can contact the people below
— CASA of Trinity Valley — Emily Heglund, firstname.lastname@example.org
— Foster Care – Jerry Johnson, JERRY.JOHNSON@dfps.state.tx.us
— Rainbow Room – Rosemary Torres, Rosemary.Torres@dfps.state.tx.us
— Faith Based Services – Tonya Fuller, TONYA.FULLER@dfps.state.tx.us
— Parent Collaboration Group – Jodie Calcote, Jodie.email@example.com or Karla Baker, firstname.lastname@example.org