Helping with Heart
How REACT Began:
Members of the Weatherford Police Department and Parker County Sheriff Office had attended a conference where representatives of the Victim Assistance Team (VAT) from Lockhart, Texas were presenters. The Lockhart program was developed utilizing a group of volunteers who had undergone extensive training in crisis intervention to be able to act at the request of law enforcement to assist with the immediate needs of victims.
Weatherford Police Department and Parker County Sheriff Office began working together to develop a volunteer based program modeled after the Lockhart program to assist with victim needs here in Parker County. Freedom House joined in the efforts early in the developmental stage.
Before the program was completely established, a horrible tragedy struck our community. Four teenage girls were struck by a drunk driver and all four of the girls died as a result of the accident. Counselors from the Parker County CO-Op contacted the Executive Director of Freedom House to help put together a team to work with classmates, teachers, and family members of the four young ladies. After facing this tragedy, Parker County CO-Op councilors joined the efforts to form a victim assistance team for Parker County.
In 1999, the first group of volunteers graduated from the REACT Training Academy.
Topics covered in the academy may include:
- Crime Victim’s Compensation
- Law enforcement & crime scene procedures/protocol
- Crisis intervention
- Stress management
- Dealing with death/grief
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Mass disasters
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Family violence
The REACT Volunteer Training Academy is approximately 30 hours + graduation.
Once the initial training is completed, volunteers are required to attend monthly meetings/training sessions and be able to regularly set aside time when they may be called out at the request of law enforcement.
Today, Weatherford Police Department and Freedom House jointly coordinate the REACT training academy as well as monthly meetings.
What do REACT volunteers do?
- Provide on-scene crisis intervention
- Provide emergency transportation to women’s shelters, etc.
- Provide special help to child victims or “babysit” at the station/court while parents are giving statements or while waiting on CPS to arrive
- Assist with crisis and disaster debriefings for law enforcement personnel
- Assist in delivering death notifications
- Serve as liaisons between victims and law enforcement agencies or social service agencies
- Accompany victims to the hospital, law enforcement agencies, or court
- Provide referrals to support agencies as necessary
- Provide basic information in obtaining Protective Orders.
How are REACT volunteers activated to respond?
- Officers at a scene may request REACT volunteers by notifying police dispatch of the request. (Shift supervisors will usually determine whether or not to call REACT).
- The dispatcher will telephone the Freedom House Hot Line to request REACT to respond.
- Freedom House will contact REACT volunteers to make the scene.
A few additional things REACT has done:
- Assist with the annual Tree of Hope celebration at the District Attorney’s Office
- Participate in annual Crime Victim’s Rights Week activities
- Assist with Weatherford Police Department’s Relay for Life activities
- Assist with delivery of heaters to elderly and/or disadvantaged citizens
- Provide “Take 5 with REACT” breaks at local law enforcement agencies
- Volunteer at Freedom House, Weatherford Police Department, Parker County Attorney’s Office
- Sponsor the “A Hole in My Heart” Butterfly Release honoring bereaved mothers and the children they have lossed
- Host annual golf tournament fundraiser.
Other things to know about REACT:
- REACT volunteers are ready and willing to assist officers with victim needs which may in turn free up the officers to return to their other duties.
- REACT volunteers will respond at the request of any Parker County law enforcement agency.
Minimum requirements to become a REACT volunteer:
- Must be at least 21 years of age.
- Must be a Parker County resident.
- Must have a clear criminal history.
- Must submit to a criminal background investigation and interview process.
- Must satisfactorily complete a REACT Training Academy.
- Must be able to attend monthly meeting/trainings.
- Must agree to a six month probationary period after completing the volunteer training academy.