BEXAR COUNTY CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT COURTS
Protecting Our Innocent
The first of its kind in Texas and the second in the nation, the new Bexar County Child Abuse & Neglect Courts are located on the third floor of the historic Bexar County Courthouse. This new area has over 10,000 square feet of space designed with children in mind, and has been named the "Model for the Nation" by The William and Mary Law School Courtroom 21 Project.
In 2002, the Hidalgo Foundation received a $1.37 million anonymous grant to create and implement the Child Abuse and Neglect Courts' Core Program of Assessment Services. This program coordinates community support services available by offering a "continuum of care" for abused and neglected children and their families. A Family Drug Treatment component is also included in the program that allows parents of children in protective care to receive substance abuse treatment and counseling. With constant communication between the courts, service providers and protective services, the Judges are able to make informed decisions regarding custody and enable children to move more rapidly forward and regain stability in their lives.
In 2005, The Hidalgo Foundation partnered with The SBC Foundation for the unveiling of the Bexar County Child Abuse & Neglect Court. The children's courthouse complex houses two child-friendly courtrooms and hearing rooms, both equipped with state-of-the-art courtroom technology including capability for remote testimony, video-conferencing and electronic evidence presentation. The complex also includes a supervised visitation and protective custody suite, holding cells, a parent drug program, clerical and child worker support, and a unique educational play area that includes computers and Internet access so the children can keep up with their schoolwork.
"The goal of the new Children's Court is to have a place where the children can feel comfortable and safe while going through the court system. We've created a unique space where professionals will help children with homework, and the children can play on computers, read, create craft projects and have snacks while waiting to appear in court", said Tracy Wolff, president of the Hidalgo Foundation.
In addition to new technology, the historic features of the Bexar County Courthouse will be restored and incorporated into the new spaces. These features include large arched windows, historic doors, mission-style tile floors and marble wainscoting. The same Pecos red sandstone present on the exterior of the courthouse will be featured as the backdrop for the judges' benches.
The Hidalgo Foundation encourages you to become more aware of the signs of child abuse and neglect, and how to report suspected abuse. For more information please visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website.