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Advocates raising awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month

Friday, April 9 is #GoBlueDay, the official color of prevention to show support for children.
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 1:19 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - According to Tex Protects, a children’s advocacy group in Texas, more than four children die from abuse or neglect on average every week, 184 children are confirmed victims daily, and more than seven children are maltreated every hour.

April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Organizations across the Brazos Valley are sounding the alarm and raising awareness.

Scotty’s House, a nonprofit child advocacy center that serves Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Robertson and Washington Counties. the agency has unveiled a Pinwheel Garden in Bryan with 663 pinwheels that represent the number of children who received services from the nonprofit in 2020. In Brazos County alone, they served 480 children.

Cassie Medlin, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Scotty’s House, describes the pattern of child abuse as an epidemic. She says it was important for all the local advocates to come together with the same goal in mind, to help put an end to child abuse.

“April provides us an extra opportunity to work together to bring awareness through different installations around the Brazos Valley, whether it’s the pinwheels, big giant ribbons that you’ll see,” said Medlin.

Medlin calls the rise in child abuse cases an epidemic that must be stopped.

“Child abuse is probably, arguably, the biggest health issue facing our children. And with it affecting so many, if we don’t get them on the path to safety, healing, and justice, where does that leave us,” said Medlin. “Every child should, at a bare minimum, be able to feel safe in their home, at their school, around people that they know, trust, and love.”

Scotty’s House is not alone in its efforts. Other nonprofits like Voices for Children - Court Appointed Special Advocates, BCS Together, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Methodist Children’s Home say protecting children is everyone’s job. They hope the public will do its part to recognize and report any signs of abuse.

Kristi Lester, Recruitment & Community Outreach Coordinator with Voices for Children, says child abuse continues to be a stigma in society. She says preventing child abuse will break generational cycles of abuse. Lester and others have worked to create a display across seven counties that include shoes representing each child that local organizations have helped over the past year.

“We chose the shoes this year as an impact statement to visually represent the number of children that were in the foster care system and that have suffered abuse and neglect in our communities,” said Lester. “We felt like it was just a really good way even as a drive-by to gain attention and to grow awareness and to cause people to ask questions and find out more about what they can do to help.”

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, nearly 500 children became victims of abuse in Brazos County alone last year.

“It is the highest in our seven-county area in central Texas,” said Lester. “It represents about half of the children in central Texas that we served for the year 2020.”

Confirmed child abuse stats provided by Scotty's House
Confirmed child abuse stats provided by Scotty's House(KBTX)

A display at Sue Haswell Park in Bryan shows 248 shoes to represent each child known to be affected by some form of child abuse. Lester says Brazos County makes up half of the cases reported in the Central Texas area the nonprofit covers.

“Child abuse, unfortunately, carries a stigma that goes ignored,” said Lester. “I think that people want to pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

Christi Yackel covers the 30 county region as a community engagement specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She says while she can’t say there has been an overall increase in reported cases of abuse, she has noticed a rise in the severity.

“Some cases have been a little more severe because children haven’t been in school so much. So we’re first hearing about them when they show up at the hospital or when law enforcement shows up out to the home,” said Yackel. “Prevention starts with awareness. In order for us to combat child abuse in our communities, we have to make people aware so that they know what to do when they encounter situations they’re not sure how to handle.”

Friday, April 9 will be recognized as #GoBlueDay. Advocates are asking that you show your support during #ChildAbusePreventionMonth by wearing blue all day. Most importantly, advocates are asking that if you see something, that you say something. Texas law requires that any person suspecting that a child has been abused or neglected must immediately make a report at 1-800-4-A-CHILD, 1-800-252-5400, or online at www.txabusehotline.org.

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