The Martin House
Children’s Advocacy Center of Gregg and Harrison Counties
The children’s advocacy center model was originated in 1983 by then District Attorney Bud Cramer in Huntsville, Alabama. Recognizing that child victims were being re-victimized by the very system that was supposed to protect time, Cramer led a group of front line workers; CPS and law enforcement investigators, nurses, mental health providers, and others; to establish the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville in 1985. Today, the Huntsville advocacy center serves as a model and resource for a growing number of advocacy centers across the country. Bud Cramer went on to serve as a US Congressman where he continued to fight for children. Congressman Cramer retired in 2008.
Amarillo is the proud home of the first CAC in Texas. In 1990 The Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center opened its doors. Since then, communities all across the state have established multidisciplinary teams to investigate, prosecute, and provide intervention for abuse victims and their non-offending family members.
In 1998, leaders in the child abuse field in both Gregg and Harrison counties began educating their communities regarding the need for a children’s advocacy center. East Texas CASA contacted Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, the membership association for CACs in Texas, and the process of starting a CAC in our community began.
The Children’s Advocacy Centers of East Texas (CACET) was established in a little gray house on College Street and the first children received interviews in June 2000. At the time, the CAC had one employee, a Program Director who quickly hired a Child Advocate to help ensure the children and their families received the services so vital to their healing process. CACET began to coordinate the efforts of the professional teams who investigate, prosecutes, and facilitate healing in both counties. The teams included representatives from area law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, Child Protective Services, and local medical and mental health professionals.
In 2002 East Texas CASA changed their organizational name to East Texas Child Advocates (ETCA) with three programs under their umbrella, East Texas CASA, CAC of East Texas, and Getting Together Safely. Because of the desire of the board to have all three programs under one roof, in 2006 the programs moved to South High Street.
In the summer of 2008 the ETCA board voted to separate CACET from the umbrella organization. A committee was formed comprised of MDT members from both counties and ETCA board members to begin the process of the legal separation. In the summer of 2009 the new board was formed and The Martin House: Children’s Advocacy Center for Gregg and Harrison Counties applied for membership and funding through Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas for fiscal year 2010.
The Martin House is now located at 606 W. Garfield and in November 2009 the first Executive Director of the Martin House was hired. The Martin House: CAC for Gregg and Harrison Counties represents a remarkable collaboration and coalition of dedicated individuals and agencies. This partnership, combined with a generous outpouring of community support, has made the center a reality and children a priority. The center joins over 60 advocacy centers in Texas in a growing effort to protect America’s youngest victims from re-victimization by an adult criminal justice system.