Abused and neglected children in Bexar County will soon have the advantage of a brand new $28 million refuge.
The ChildSafe Group broke ground on Saturday for a new campus in East San Antonio at the intersection of I-10 and East Houston Street.
Children from the nearby Boys & Girls Club joined dignitaries for the ceremonial turning of shovels. The kids who attended the ceremony all agreed, it is an important resource.
Sitting in the shade near where the new 65,000-square-foot campus will be built, several children said that this is a valuable place.
“Sometimes parents just neglect or hurt their child with abusive ways and this is a good place for them to stop, relax a little bit, and tell them about what's going on and maybe social workers can help with the parenting," Gabriel said.
His friend Solomon agreed.
“I definitely think it is important for a child to have a safe place because if they do get abused and stuff, you don't want that to keep happening again and again and again because that will lead up to other bad stuff,” Solomon said.
“If the parent is treating them badly, I think that's not okay, so they should come here so they could talk about it, so they could help, so the child could actually speak to the parent and say what he is trying to say,” Silas said.
ChildSafe is a 25-year-old non-profit that helps children who have been hurt start to heal.
They provide crisis intervention, case management services, counseling, and advanced therapy to aid in the healing of child victims of abuse and neglect.
The group has seen a 90 percent increase in counseling sessions in the last two years and they have grown their staff by over 50 percent.
"For children who have had their dignity, and ultimately their childhood, stripped, this facility is for you," ChildSafe CEO Kim Abernathy said. "It says we believe in you. We value you. We care for you and we are here for you."
District 2 City Council Representative Cruz Shaw said that he became aware of the group’s importance when he started his law practice in San Antonio.
“I started working with ChildSafe and they opened my eyes to the remarkable work that they do, so we are very honored and blessed to have this partnership with the city, as well as other stakeholders, the county, and our private sector,” Councilman Shaw said.
Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert told the crowd that he grew up nearby and believes this new campus, adjacent to Martin Luther King Park and the Salado Creek Hike and Bike Trail, will allow nature to help with the healing process.
“I used to watch fireflies here and chase them with joy. Every child should have that chance,” Commissioner Calvert said.
Philanthropist Harvey Najim, who gave $5 million to the group’s capital campaign, said that he signed up to help after touring the group’s current facility. He recalled seeing a crying mother and child leave a counseling session and, at that moment, he knew he had to act.
“I made a decision that day that one day that I will make sure that our most valuable asset, our children, are protected and safe,” Najim said. "Soon there will be children in the building behind us and hopefully their tears will turn into cheers and their fear to hope."
Infrastructure work is already underway on the site. Construction begins in earnest in December and they hope to be open for business within two years.
To learn more about ChildSafe and the Salado Creek Campus, you can visit their official website here.