The Tyler Independent School District Head Start program and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) linked up for an abuse awareness ceremony Friday. Students at Mamie G. Griffin Elementary learned about the signs of child abuse, and what it means to be loved.

This was part of the annual Smith County child abuse proclamation ceremony.

It was a packed house at Griffin. The event started in the gymnasium while parents watched a singing performance from their children, singing songs of peace and love.

"Child abuse effects all communities regardless of race, income,” said Griffin Elementary Principal Brandon Chandler.

He said awareness makes all the difference.

"For years, people thought it was just a family problem, but it's a community problem,” said Child Protective Services Program Specialist Charlotte Sanders.

According to a 2016 report from TDFPS, there were 1,465 child abuse and neglect investigations in Smith County.

Looking further into the data, 647 children fell victim to child abuse in Smith County in 2016. Out of those, two children died. In Texas, 222 children died last year.

Sanders said the numbers prove there’s work to be done.

"A child had to die before we realized there was a problem within the family,” she said.

Her solution, to make those statistics go down, is to keep spreading awareness to both parents and children.

"Studies have proven that children from ages 0 to 5 are the most vulnerable,” she said, making it critical to show them what love look

Connie Barnes with Tyler ISD Head Start said a balloon sendoff is her favorite part, as it sends a strong message each year.

"The balloon release was done to send our kisses to heaven and let the ones know they are never forgotten,” Barnes said.

Two white balloons represented the children that lost the battle to child abuse, mixed in a sea of blue ones.

"We want to make sure they have the childhood they deserve,” Barnes said.