Guest Column – “Child abuse? It’s not my problem.”
By Norma Castilla-Blackwell
With Jana Teis
SPECIAL TO THE POST-REGISTER
Look 8-year-old DJ in the eyes and say that to him. For years, DJ’s relatives physically and sexually abused him and one of his sisters while his parents were locked in their bedroom using methamphetamines. Tell that to his brothers and sisters who lived in a filthy home where garbag
e was knee deep.
Say that to any of the one in 100 children in Texas who is a victim of some form of neglect and physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Stand by the grave of one of the 280 children who died of abuse and neglect in Texas last year and say it isn’t your problem.
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. After years of education and awareness, you would think that child abuse would have gone the way of the Model T. But, that would be wishful thinking.
Across the country, 2,700 children will be beaten and traumatized in some fashion today. In Texas that means that one of the 100 children in your church, the school down the road or the youngsters you see playing on playgrounds or athletic fields has been subjected to some form of abuse or neglect.
Thankfully we saw a small dip in confirmed child abuse cases a couple of years ago, but recent statistics show more children are being removed from their homes because of evidence of abuse and neglect. The downturn in the economy, which is stressing families, is thought to be a factor.
Why should you care? The reason is simple.
The toll as a society is significant. Not only is it expensive to care for children in the foster care system now, but it costs all of us in the long run.
Children who are abused often grow up to be abusers if they are not removed from unsafe homes and provided treatment. Children in foster care are more likely to have mental health problems including drug and alcohol addiction. Such youngsters are more likely to drop out of school which limits their long-term earning potential. They are more likely to end up homeless, having children before they’re ready, turning to crime and straining our already fragile social safety net.
We are past the point of saying “it isn’t my problem.” Each of us has an obligation to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect. If you know of a family that is stressed because of job loss or the economy, offer to help. If you see abuse, intervene or report it to (800) 252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org .
But don’t stop there – make a personal investment. Mentor children who are at risk. Get involved with a social service organization that helps abused and neglected children. Consider being a foster parent or adoptive parent. Explore becoming a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) by visiting www.BecomeACASA.org and work for the best interests of children through the court system.
Make it your problem to solve.
Norma Castilla-Blackwell, is executive director of CASA of Central Texas, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties.
Jana Teis, a resident of San Marcos, is a member of the board of directors for Texas CASA, which supports 69 programs, including CASA of Central Texas,, that provide trained volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in court in 204 Texas counties.