Area child advocates pushing for kid-friendly family room at Angelina Co. Courthouse

Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff)
Source: KTRE Staff)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Some folks are working on a new room in an East Texas courthouse that will be just for children who have been victims of abuse and have to testify in court.

Right now, child advocates say there is nowhere for them to go in the Angelina County Courthouse when they are waiting to testify. And the children are left in a hallway surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the courthouse.

The proposed changes are designed to help make these children more comfortable before they take the stand.

On a typical day in the Angelina County Courthouse you're likely to see a judge, a jury, defendants, and inmates

But once in a while you'll see a child, a victim of sexual or physical assault, having to testify in their case.

"A lot of times they have to rub elbows with criminal defendants and defendants' families," said Art Bauereiss, Angelina County's District Attorney.

Child advocates in Angelina County said the courthouse is not designed with children in mind, and they are working to make victims' experiences in the courthouse comfortable ones and create a family room inside the courthouse.

"This is all a part of extending our mission to lessen the trauma of children who are going through a system that's not designed for them," said Ashley Cook, the community education director for Harold's House.

Bauereiss said, for the most part, children end up waiting in the hallway.

"We've had some old VHS tapes and an old player we've been able to press into service for the children," Bauereiss said.

"They may see their perpetrator and deal with the discomfort of that or they may just witness thing going on with neighboring cases," Cook said.

Harold's House was awarded with one of the first Women of Courage Grant.

On Friday, they will present the $15,000 grant to the commissioner's court for consideration

Cook said the room would be modeled after the family room at Harold's House.

"Art materials, games and books and other things that would make them feel safe and comfortable," Cook said.

Advocates say the room would be specifically for Harold's House clients and other advocacy centers.

The commissioner's court will meet at 10 a.m. in the Angelina County Courthouse Annex and hear the family room presentation.

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