Last year, 220 Texas children died and more than 83,000 separate allegations of abuse or neglect were confirmed in Texas by Child Protective Services. In Region 4, which covers Northeast Texas from Bowie to Lamar County down to Anderson and Panola counties, 14 children died between Sept. 1, 2007, and Aug. 31, 2008.
While no children were killed in Hopkins County, the figures are staggering when you consider that about one in every 65 children are abused each year in the county, according to information compiled from the CPS data book by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services public information officer Shari Pulliam.
CPS workers received 391 initial intakes alleging abuse or neglect, completed 257 investigations and reported 39 children removed from their homes and 53 children in foster care in Hopkins County. They had 85 confirmed investigations and 132 confirmed victims.
Lake Country Court Appointed Special Advocates, who represent children who have been removed from their homes through the time of adoption, return or adulthood, report their office served 197 children last year, including 72 from Hopkins County.
So far this year, CASA has served 134 children, including 52 in Hopkins County.
“I honestly think we’re ahead of last year’s numbers already. That may be good in some things, but this is bad. These are children who have been abused or neglected. It’s really sad,” said Gina Law, executive director of Lake Country CASA. “I’ve noticed another thing this year. In the past, it’s been pretty equal in the number of boys and girls we see. Right now we have 30 more boys. In the 6 1/2 years I’ve been doing this, the difference has been only by one or two on either side.”
Law explained that CASA numbers are often higher than CPS number because CASA case workers “stay with the children until they are adopted or out of the system,” whereas CPS cases generally end when a child’s case is turned over to an adoption unit.
Child abuse, whether physical or sexual, is serious as is physical, sexual, medical or supervision neglect of a child.
That’s why April has been declared Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, to make more people aware of the problem, options if they suspect abuse, what constitutes abuse and tips for prevention.
That’s also why CPS and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Lake Country CASA are asking the community to join them in spreading the word about child abuse and prevention.
April 8 has been designated as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Day. Community members are encourage to show their support of all children and child abuse prevention on Wednesday, April 8, by wearing a blue ribbon —the international symbol for child abuse prevention — or blue clothing.
Blue was selected to represent the “bruised and battered bodies” of children who suffer abuse and neglect. The blue ribbon should serve as a reminder “that all of us have a responsibility to help keep children safe,” notes the “Stop Child Abuse: Go Blue” campaign promoted across the country by child advocates and CPS.
So what is the best way to prevent child abuse and neglect, aside from properly caring for and loving your child?
According to CPS, the best way to prevent child abuse and neglect is to support families and provide parents with skills and resources they need.” Families can be strengthened through education efforts and parents support groups.
Community members can help prevent child abuse and neglect by realizing that it can happen in any setting and abusers can be anyone who comes into contact with the child. Be aware of physical signs of abuse and neglect as well as behavior changes and changes in a child’s relationship with peers and others.
Listen to what children are saying. CPS recommends following the adage, “If it doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t.” Then, take action.
Don’t assume someone else will report potential abuse or neglect; call the child abuse hotline, 1-800-252-5400, so that officials can investigate the allegation. Doing so could save a child’s life, or at the least prevent suffering and further abuse.
People can also help prevent neglect and abuse by being a positive role model who helps children feel good about themselves. It’s important for kids to know there are adults who who consider them important.
Also, be an advocate, get involved with kids and prevention opportunities when they arise, or volunteer with groups like CASA. If you can’t give time, contribute to organizations dedicated to kids, representing them and helping them, and families.
For tips on recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect, go online to www.itsuptoyou.org and download one of the DFPS calendars, called “The Parenting Toolkit: Building Strong Families,” which is filled with parenting tips such as preventing tantrums and teaching respect.
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