Child Abuse Prevention Month: Hundreds Gather to Recognize Victims

Child Abuse Prevention Month: Hundreds Gather to Recognize Victims

Last year alone, 156 Texas children died at the hands of their own parents or caregivers. 

They're the faces of innocence, but for so many victims of child abuse and neglect that innocence has been lost. 

"We do see child abuse -- it is prevalent in the population that we serve, so we have to always be aware of what's going on with the children," Gloria Bell, director of Tyler's Head Start program, said. 

According to Child Protective Services (CPS), more than 66,000 Texas children were victims of child abuse or neglect last year, and more than 17,000 of those kids had to be removed from their homes.

"We need the community's support and everybody just to be aware that that's going on so that we can make an effort to keep all of our children safe," Bell said.

Hundreds gathered at Tyler's Early Childhood Center Friday afternoon to recognize those victims and to put a spotlight on an issue so many kids are faced with every day.

On display all across campus were 506 pairs of kids shoes -- each representing a child abuse victim in Smith County. But those are just the cases that have been reported. Many children will never get the chance to speak out.

"There's so many more cases that we just don't know about because the kids are either scared to tell, they don't know it's wrong," Lani Reeves, development coordinator with the Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County, said.

"That's why we need the awareness, because we need people to help these children tell their story."

Advocates say it's important to educate kids so they can recognize abuse if it happens to them. 

The Children's Advocacy Center does just that -- visiting 90 percent of Smith County elementary schools, teaching children what's okay and what's not.

"Happy Bear teaches them good touches versus bad touches," Reeves said, "and when they get a bad touch, to please report it to someone so they can get help."

"I hope people will walk away knowing that child abuse is a concern in Smith County, and that it's up to us as adults in this community to make sure our children are safe and taken care of," Bell said.

If you spot signs of child abuse or neglect, like bruises or scratches, self-destructive behavior or extreme loneliness, please contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.  

To get involved and learn more about child abuse prevention and events going on in your area, click on the Hot Button on our homepage.




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