“How much our society values its children can be measured by how well they are treated and protected.”
? Dr.Howard Markel
In 2013, 156 child abuse and/or neglect related fatalities were reported, according to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services data.
Although Brown and surrounding counties were spared the tragedy of a senseless abuse or neglect death, other data from 2013 demonstrate the seriousness of the situation in the Bulletin's readership area.
Within Brown, Comanche, and Mills counties, of the 641 reports made to Child Protective Services, 534 were assigned to investigators. Limited to only five investigators, working from the Brownwood office and responsible for Brown, Coleman, and Comanche counties, it is notable that the majority of cases have an initial response within 72 hours.
Of those numbered above, 113 were confirmed cases of abuse and/or neglect, involving 142 children.
Child abuse is an avoidable and the key to eliminating it is awareness.
Roberta Duncan, of the Brownwood CPS office, said, "It's everybody's responsibility to watch out for the welfare of our kids."
Duncan encourages everyone to be vigilant in recognizing signs of abuse and neglect, and then to make the call to the hotline. She warned the on-hold time can be lengthy, but said it is very important wait on the line and make the report.
As the numbers reflect, not every report is validated, but an unreported case can never be confirmed or disproved. The mission statement of Child Protective Services is to "protect children and to act in the children's best interest. To seek active involvement of the children's parents and other family members to solve problems that lead to abuse and neglect."
Ideally, intervention before a situation becomes abusive is the best practice. To that end, parents and family members must reach out for assistance. Locally, one place to start is the Family Service Center, where professionals can provide assistance or guidance on where appropriate services are available.
The FSC provides counseling, parenting education, anger management, and other programs to strengthen families, which are all tools to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Other local groups dedicated to the prevention and awareness of child abuse include the Child Welfare Board of Brown County and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Both of these groups are actively seeking volunteers to join their efforts.
Duncan said, "We're excited about what the Child Welfare Board is doing to increase awareness," referring to the Pinwheels for Prevention around town and the April 26 event at Heartland Mall.
Concerned persons may report abuse or neglect of both children and adults to the DFPS Hotline at (800)252-5400.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month