By DAVID LOPEZ
Special to the News
Maggie’s House and Monica’s House are two advocacy centers servicing child victims of abuse through prevention, intervention, and treatment. Maggie’s House is the center located in San Benito next to the San Benito High School while Monica’s House is in Brownsville. Both Houses serve Cameron and Willacy counties.
A Coffee with the Chamber event at the San Benito Funeral Home Tuesday morning featured Monica & Maggie’s House Executive Director Anna De La Cruz as the main guest speaker. De La Cruz spoke to attendees about the non-profit’s history, their search for a new location, and what goes into the process of treating child victims. The San Benito News caught up with De La Cruz after the talk for some coffee and a discussion on the state of the non-profit.
Q: You spoke about looking for a new location in San Benito, how long has that search been going on?
R: A long time (laughs). I’ve been Executive Director for seven years, but we have outgrown our location because of an increase in staff and the number of children we provide services to, so we definitely need a location that is going to be beneficial while we continue to grow.
Q: Chief of Police Michael Galvan mentioned during your speech that if we raise the funds in San Benito, we can keep Maggie’s House here. Is it in danger of disappearing otherwise?
R: No, we’ll continue to provide the service. Again, we just need something bigger. There’s overcrowding, even with staff, I mean, as I was teasing, I used to keep my office door open but now I have to close my door to focus and concentrate. But no we will continue as long as we can, and San Benito has always been the home of Maggie.
These portables are old, and we’re pretty much just putting band-aids on. The fact that our staff is having to work in these conditions, with faulty plumbing among others, is the issue. Again we just wanna have a place where we can continue servicing because the demand is there.
Q: How many children are treated on average at your centers?
R: 1,734 children were provided services between both centers last year, while over 300 children were treated for San Benito alone.
Q: What’s the difference between what you do and what Child Protective Services does?
R: We work hand-in-hand with CPS, actually. They are the investigators and we assist with the interviewing of the child to get their history and whatever has occurred to them. That’s why we call them multi-disciplinary team partners because that was the original intent of what Bud Cramer (founder of National Children’s Advocacy Center) wanted, all investigative partners including police together and that one middle person to come in and get that information out of the child.
Q: I never considered that children have to relive their traumatic experiences with every interviewing party.
R: This was the initial concept of what Bud Cramer wanted. He said, “Why don’t we pull all these people together and avoid having to re-victimize the children?”
Q: We’ve featured Maggie’s House on the News before, what are some misconceptions the public still has of your work that you would like to address?
R: Sometimes I get asked, ‘Are your numbers higher or lower during the holidays or during the summer or at the beginning of school,’ and I gotta say it varies because child abuse doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas or summer time. In fact typically our summers have been quiet but the last couple of summers have been busy for us.
With me it all just goes back to awareness, and we have been in San Benito for a long time and there’s still a huge misconception about who we are, for example people think it’s a house. But we tack that on our name because we want children to feel comfortable. You walk in to our center and it’s a very peaceful setting to put the child at ease. Then a staff member meets with the child and parent and tells them what to expect and introduces them to the room where the interview takes place. Again I just feel that we are trying to lose that misconception of what we do and bring awareness to the community about reporting and keeping our children safe.