Hope Child Advocacy Center re-emerging

Sonny Long

July 19, 2013 at 2:19 a.m.
Updated July 23, 2013 at 2:23 a.m.

Hope of South Texas is undergoing a metamorphosis.

The agency has a temporary new home and is concentrating its efforts on child advocacy.

New Executive Director Ric Tinney, hired in March, said the organization will emphasize the Hope Child Advocacy Center moving forward.

"Our main business is kids. That's what we are about," said Tinney.

Toward that end, Michelle Rubio was hired as the agency's lead forensic interviewer.

Rubio, a native of Goliad, has worked with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 19 years in the sociology department, said Tinney.

"We're excited to have Michelle on board and eager to get started," said Tinney. "She has already begun work helping me develop protocols and policies."

Earlier this month, the Victoria County Commissioners Court approved a month-to-month lease agreement with the agency at the former elections office, 111 N. Glass St. That agreement is expected to be finalized Monday.

Tinney said he expects to be in the offices by Aug. 1.

"That will not be our final location," he said. "Temporarily, we are going to make it work and begin providing services to the children."

Last fall, children's forensic interview services were shifted to The Harbor in Port Lavaca.

"I feel good about where we are," said Don Polzin, executive director of the Gulf Bend Center and chairman of the agency's board of directors. "We are getting our feet back on the ground. It's a matter of rebuilding and regaining the confidence of the community. And I think we're on that path."

Polzin said that leadership is vital to the organization's success.

"We've got a good leader with a good vision and good board members," he said. "The stakeholders on the board are represented by their top leadership.

"I am confident that we will soon be back to providing a vitally important service to the community."

Tinney said Hope Child Advocacy Center will be incorporating the latest in standards set up by the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas.

"There are some new requirements that go into effect in September 2014. We are working to meet those requirements now as we re-establish services," Tinney said.

In addition to the forensic interview and partnering with multidisciplinary agencies, those standards include family advocacy and a mental health component, Tinney said.

"We're looking at beefing up our mental health services," Tinney said.

If funds are available, Tinney would like to hire a clinical supervisor and licensed therapists.

Last year, because of a clerical error, the agency lost its Crime Victims Compensation grant funding through the Texas Attorney General's Office.

"We've made applications for the grants we lost," Tinney said.

He said any new hires are dependant on finances.

"A lot depends on the kind of grant approval we receive," he said. "If the money is not there, we're not going to hire if we don't have the money.

"We're only going to grow for what we have money for. Michelle and I will be burning a lot of midnight oil."

Tinney, who has experience as a counselor but is working toward becoming a licensed therapist, acknowledged that the agency's expenditures are personnel heavy.

"It's a human service business and human dependant," Tinney said. "Personnel is going to be a major expense. We're certainly going to watch that."

While it concentrates on rebranding itself as Hope Child Advocacy Center, some of its former services for adults have been taken over by other agencies.

It suspended its sexual assault crisis center and 24-hour crisis intervention hotline in September due to funding shortfalls.

In November, Mid-Coast Family Services expanded its sexual assault services program, including a sexual crisis hotline, to fill the gap left by Hope's suspension of services.

"I'm not sure where we will go toward restoring those services in the future," said Tinney.

"It's largely a board decision. My concentration right now is to make the child advocacy center a model within the state."



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