April is officially known as Child Abuse Awareness Month, but this important topic needs ongoing attention and action year-round. The tragic death of a young Denton boy recently punctuates the problem. Our children are the future and, by working together, we can help them to have a future unscarred by abuse.
The Child Protective Services Board recently hosted a breakfast at the Denton County Administrative Courthouse in the 2020 Room and spoke to the Denton County Commissioners Court to bring awareness about child abuse and its prevalence in today’s society. According to 2021 statistics, more than 7,000 reports of child abuse in our county were received and more than 4,000 cases were assigned to Denton County case workers. More than 250 children were placed with a relative or in a foster home. And the best news shared was that 56 children have been adopted into permanent homes.
These statistics remind us that we all have a responsibility to protect children. The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has never been truer than it is today.
Our collective desire is always for children to be loved, nurtured, protected, and safe. It is to those ends we can all come together for the good of all children across Denton County and beyond.
As we all become aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse, it allows us to be proactive in the protection of children. Some signs of abuse in children and teens include: Unexplained injuries; Changes in behavior; Fear of certain places or people; Changes in eating; Changes in sleeping; Changes in school performance and attendance; Lack of personal care or hygiene; Risk-taking behaviors.
Signs of sexual abuse in younger children include: Behaving as a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking); Has new words for private parts; Resists removing clothes at appropriate times (bath, bed, toileting, diapering); Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games; Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animals; Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training.
Signs of sexual abuse in adolescents: Self-injury (cutting/burning); Inadequate personal hygiene; Drug and alcohol abuse; Sexual promiscuity; Running away from home; Depression, anxiety; Suicide attempts; Fear of intimacy or closeness; Compulsive eating or dieting.
What can adults/parents do to keep kids safe? Talk to your child: Discuss welcome and unwelcome touches (prevention education is protection); Start conversations at a young age about abuse; Discuss boundaries – It’s ok to say “No” to an adult; Never keep secrets; Identify safe adults and teach your child about them; Reduce the risk – Keep children away from one-on-one situations with other adults; Be alert – Most perpetrators are known to their victims; Know the signs – Trust your instincts; If you suspect abuse, report it.
Report suspected abuse to www.txabusehotline.org or call 1-800-252-5400.
The Children’s Advocacy Center for North Texas operates by bringing services to the child instead of the child going from place to place to tell their stories and get the help they need. The Center is not only an advocate for abused children, but they also work to educate the public, children, and adults on this topic. They currently have educational opportunities which are offered in-person or virtually in English or Spanish. And they are always looking for volunteers to assist in their life-saving mission. To find out more, visit their website at www.cacnorthtexas.org or contact Michelle Rocha at 972-538-5941.
Remember, we should all work together to bring awareness for our children and to prevent any abuse they may encounter. Let’s pull our “village” together and help diminish this terrible evil in our society.
Contact Commissioner Edmondson by email at [email protected] or phone her at 972/434-3960. You can also stop by her office in the Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Suite 900, in Flower Mound.