Posted on Apr 17, 2019

"Wherever kids are there are predators," Shree Patterson of Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County told Mineral Wells Rotarians on Wednesday.


If that sounds alarming, it is meant to be. They are words of caution and warning for parents trying to navigate today's technologies in a way that is safe for their children.


Patterson, pictured left, and CACPPC Executive Director and Rotarian Linda Porter-Bradford, center, were this week's guest speakers who delivered a program centered on April being Child Abuse Prevention Month. Also pictured is Rotary Club President JJ Dugan.

Much of their program centered on social media and apps used by young people that are breeding grounds for sexual predators who "groom" potential victims into exchanging sexually explicit images and videos or arranging places to meet, while trying to hide their activities from parents and authorities.


Patterson said though in many cases sexual predators of children are not hiding in the dark. She said they are often very visible and will even engage adults on social media as a means to gain access to their children.


Porter-Bradford said predators come in all forms, making them difficult to identify or classify.


"As far as a groomer, there is no standard for them," she told Rotarians.


Patterson said if people think online sexual predators don't exist locally, they would be wrong.


"It happens every day in Mineral Wells and Palo Pinto County," Patterson said.



She called "sexting" – the sharing of sexually explicit photos or videos via smartphones – "the new first base."


Patterson cited statistics that show the average age that a child receives their first smartphone is 9. Fifty percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 say they have "sexted." Of those females who admitted sexting, 60 percent said they did so out of pressure.


She told a recent story of a local 14-year-old girl who met a man in his mid-20s from Waco through a social media app. Patterson called him the typical predatory groomer, showering her with compliments and offers of gifts. It led to their meeting at a local motel. Law enforcement was made aware and an arrest was made.


Patterson pointed out several social media phone apps popular among children and teens, including some used for the purpose of exchanging sexually explicit images. They included the apps LiveMe, Tik Tok, Yubo, and Omegle.


Patterson while Snapchat was once the most popular app among teenagers, that has been replaced by Instagram as the preferred social media app of young people today, with 77 percent of teens saying they use Instagram.


Patterson is one of the founding members of the Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County, organized in 2012 under a charter and oversight by the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas. The statewide agency oversees 71 CACs in Texas covering 208 counties and 98 percent of the state's population.


In 2018, CACs across the state provided critical sexual or physical abuse services to 58,432 children, of which 67 percent were for sexual abuse.


The local CAC had over 500 statewide intakes in 2018 with 162 of those meeting the center's protocols and coming into its offices.


"We are very busy, I hate to say that," stated Patterson.


Porter-Bradford said one day this week say the CAC conducted four child interviews, and she said she personally interviewed a 3-year-old girl.


Like all CACs, the Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County serves as a multi-agency resource to assist in the prosecution of criminal child abuse cases. It utilizes a multi-disciplinary team made up representatives from agencies including the Mineral Wells Police Department, Palo Pinto County Sheriff's Office, Palo Pinto County District Attorney's Office, Child Protective Services and Cooks Children's Medical Center, among others, to share information on active cases.


The local CAC provides forensic interviews of victims by trained counselors done in a safe and comfortable setting intended to put victims at ease. Along with coordinating investigations, the CAC strives to prevent child abuse cases through education and programs for any group requesting them.



"We are more like first responders," Patterson said of when a child makes an outcry of abuse, or an adult reports abuse or suspected abuse.


She said the Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County is different than CASA-Hope For Children in that CASA, an acronym for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, assists in child abuse cases on the civil side when volunteers are appointed by a judge to oversee a case and file a report with the court. CACs work on the criminal side to aid in the arrests and prosecutions of abusers.


For more information about CACPPC, visit


Rotary Club of Mineral Wells meets every Wednesday at noon at Palo Pinto General Hospital for lunch, networking, updates on club news and events and a program of interest.