I Don’t Want to Read Another Horror Story :: Child Abuse Prevention

I Don't Want to Read Another Horror Story:: Child Abuse Prevention | Houston Moms Blog

Photo Credit :: Matthew Hinton, New Orleans Advocate

As I write this article, my two girls are playing in the playroom together, fighting and giggling as sisters do. Right before I close my eyes at night, I look at the monitors and make sure that both girls are asleep and safe in their beds. Helping kids has been the focus of most of my life. I ran the youth program at my small church. I studied youth ministry in college. I became a teacher and finally I became a mother. For a while I worked with at-risk youth in Katy, where they marveled that someone saw them as individuals and not just delinquents. When I read a news story about horrible things happening to kids, like this one and this one, my first instinct is to get those kids out. Bring them to my happy home, I always think. After child abuse is revealed, there is usually an outpour of community support and love for the child and the situation. But how do we prevent the abuse from happening in the first place?

Every Child Deserves to Be Safe

There is no question that each of us would love to never hear of another story of a baby found in a meth lab or a man who throws his crying baby.  After a story comes out, we see the signs or wish there was some way to help. Should I have called more? I should have seen that the child was dirty or way too thin or unhappy. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and with it comes the resources we need to prevent child abuse from ever happening again.  We have the ability to give all children the lives they deserve. Former President Barack Obama wrote::

“(e)very child is born into a world filled with limitless possibilities, and as a Nation, we must ensure all our young people have the support they need to realize their enormous potential.  Regardless of who they are or the circumstances of their birth, each child deserves to be cared for, cherished, and kept safe from harm.”

In Houston, we have several organizations dedicated to helping our kids. The Children’s Assessment Center treats over 4,000 kids and 2,000 adults each year and provided us with 10 Signs of Child Abuse to look out for with the kids in your life. As adults, we are the first responders to getting and giving help where needed. Providing a safe space for children and adults is the first priority.

When the Story is Personal 

On a personal note, a few years ago I read a news story of a mom who shot her teenage daughters in Katy and realized those two innocent young ladies were my babysitters. Both of them had cared for my two daughters numerous times, played with them, talked to me about their future plans, shared plot theories about Grey’s Anatomy, and were generally happy individuals. The first time the youngest, Madison, came over I tried to show her how our tv worked, but she smiled and asked if it was ok if she worked on homework instead of watching tv. {Uhh, of course!}

As a former high school teacher and mom, my spidey-senses went off about them. Madison had eluded to something wrong with her mother or her parents being crazy and my husband and I brushed it off as teenage angst. Something told me to invite them over more or ask if they needed anything. I knew that they had friends who took them on vacations and treated them as family, so in hindsight, I wonder if that mom’s spidey-senses went off as well.

After hearing about what happened, I cried, wondering what I could have done to prevent it. I should have asked one of them to babysit. I legitimately thought about it the night they died that I should have gotten a babysitter to have a few hours away.  People have asked me what I would have done differently in the moment and to be honest, I don’t know. Maybe invite her to watch Grey’s Anatomy with me or talk to her about what was going on at home.

What Can We Do?

Texas CASA and CAC offer many solutions to the “What can we do?” question.

  • DonateTexas CASA reported that in 2017 there were a total of 50,293 children in the child protection system and almost every 8 minutes, a child became a victim of abuse or neglect. Houston-based CAC reported that in 2017 their offices provided 5,297 hours of individual therapy, numerous hours of group and family therapy, 6,401 visits to the playroom given to provide a safe haven to children healing from abuse. On a local level, your children-focused organizations are also a great place to donate. Your local church youth group or Girl/Boy Scout group provides similar services unofficially.
  • Volunteer– As a former youth minister and teacher, the hearts that touch our kids are usually the ones that can also help heal them. My dad was a Boy Scout troop leader for many years and it is not uncommon for an adult male to come up to him in public to let him know what an impact he made on them in their youth. Volunteering on a local level is so important. You can also be a dedicated volunteer to speak up for our children who need it. Texas CASA reported that they had 10,424 CASA volunteers advocating for 29,747 children in care, leaving about 20,000 without a dedicated volunteer to speak up for their needs while in care. Get to know these children and be their voice here.
  • Report child abuse– “See something, say something.” You have a unique view of the kids in your life, whether it is your own kids, their friends, family, or ones you come across in everyday life. If you believe a child has been abused, molested, neglected or otherwise maltreated, please report it today. Contact your local Sheriff’s Office to report your concerns. Another avenue is to call the Texas Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-252-5400 or visit Child Protective Services

We are the first steps to preventing child abuse. What are some other ways you can think of to help prevent child abuse? How can we give every child the happy and healthy life that they deserve?

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