April is child abuse awareness month
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has kicked off a month-long campaign starting April 1 to stop child abuse and raise public awareness.
Child abuse cases continue to climb and in 2012, 212 Texas children died at the hands of their parents or caregivers, and more than 64,000 children were abused or neglected. There were 166,211 completed investigations and 16,972 children were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
In Orange County, in 2012 there was one death related to child abuse in addition to 435 confirmed victims of child abuse and 985 completed investigations. As a result, there are 209 children in foster care.
The terrible toll of child abuse can be reduced by listening to children and learning the signs of child abuse.
The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination. The signs include, when a child shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance or has not received help for physical or medical problems when brought to the parents’ attention. The child may also have learning problems or experience difficulty concentrating and cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes or always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen, There are times when the child may lack adult supervision, is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn or goes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
Child abuse and neglect destroys families, scars children, and undermines communities. That’s why the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services teams with local governments and groups every April to call attention to how to prevent, recognize, and report child abuse.
Jimmy Douglas, 42, who was severely abused as a child and still lives with the pain, wishes things would have been different and the abuse would have stopped.
Douglas was removed from his residence after Child Protective Services was called amid allegations of abuse. As an adult, he received copies of his case file which brought back many bad memories but also answers some lingering questions.
As he thinks back to his days of living with his mother, he runs his finger across his brow and remembers why there is a scar there.
According to Douglas, he was about five years old, he woke up in the middle of the night coughing and wanted a drink of water. He could not reach the sink and persistency asked his mother to get it for him. She got up and filled the glass for him and then threw it towards him shattering the glass on his head. He said he ran back to bed with blood streaming down his face and fearful he had made her angry.
There were other incidents as well. Sometimes the beating were so severe he was not allowed to go outside and play with friends or attend school until he was healed.
Physical abuse was common for Douglas. The dark-hair, bright blue-eyed boy often went to school hungry and without shoes. Douglas remembers not having anything to eat on many occasions. Douglas and his mother often only had only government surplus items such as bread, cheese and butter to eat. Douglas stops to think about the times when he didn’t eat for days and how grateful he was to have a bread and butter sandwich.
His mother who had been diagnosed with several mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, sexually abused him as well. She “loaned” him to her friends where the sexual abuse would continue, according to his file.
As an adult, he tried to overcome his past. But, drugs and alcohol seemed to be the only way. This lifestyle was not the answer he was searching for and his world came crashing down on him. He ended up living on the streets and eventually in prison. Even then, the pain from his past haunted him.
He married and had two children, even then true happiness seemed to be out of reach.
But, he vowed he would be the best father he could and for a brief time, he was until his past caught up with him once again and he couldn’t control his drug use. His wife and children left him to make a better life.
Stopping abuse after the fact is important – but it’s not enough. We need to stop it before it starts! That’s what the Help for Parents, Hope for Kids campaign is all about.
Thanks to a federal grant, The Department of Family and Protective Services is spending $1,000,000 on the campaign from now through the end of the summer. TV ads in English and Spanish are running on stations in all Texas media markets during Child Abuse Prevention Month. The online ad campaign runs from mid-March through the end of August. This advertising buy specifically targets young parents and especially young mothers.
The ultimate goal of the Help and Hope campaign is to help Texas parents find the help and information they need in their communities to head off child abuse before it happens.
“I heard hundreds of child abuse cases when I was a district judge in San Antonio,” said DFPS Commissioner John Specia. “Many of the parents who came through my courtroom were young, poor, and stressed. If we can get parents the support they need up-front, fewer will end up in court needing the help of Child Protective Services.”
While prevention is best, always report child abuse or neglect. Don’t count on someone else to do something. Report your suspicions to the Texas Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online at www.txabusehotline.org.