|San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Child abuse, at-risk CPS programs may see cuts
San Jacinto News- Times
Child abuse prevention experts from San Jacinto County attended a meeting in Austin last Thursday with other child advocacy groups, airing concerns over proposed budget cuts to prevention programs. Meeting in Austin with other child advocacy groups were San Jacinto County Child Welfare Board members Nell Martin, Anna Thorpe and Mae Miller. Hundreds attended the meeting marching with 250 blue umbrellas signifying that abused and neglected children are drowning and need to be rescued by the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Advocates say hundreds of families and children across the state would lose services if the Texas Legislature in May approves a proposed 32 percent funding cut to several key prevention programs that have been proven through research to reduce child abuse. The cuts would be part of sweeping statewide budget reductions affecting just about every state funded entity in Texas, which is facing a budget shortfall of up to $27 billion in the next two fi scal years. “The number of children abused will defi nitely increase because the budget cuts will result in case worker layoffs; thus, children who should be taken into custody will be left in an undesirable environment,” Thorpe said Monday while helping to decorate the gazebo on the San Jacinto County Courthouse square for Child Abuse Prevention Month. “Prevention programs such as information to educate young people about self-protection which focuses on sexual assault prevention, information on promoting communication strategies for children with developmental disorders and child abuse prevention education, an inoffensive, kid friendly program using Kids on the Block puppets, plus many more prevention strategies which help families and children cope with problems before they escalate into abusive situations will be cut and this will result in more children being abused,” Thorpe said. Legislators are proposing severe cuts to: (1) effective prevention programs that keep children out of the system; (2) relative caregiver and adoption subsidies that help children achieve permanency; (3) foster care reimbursement rates; (4) Child Protective Services budget that will result in layoffs of hundreds of CPS workers who work directly with children and families, according to Thorpe. “I am very concerned because child abuse and neglect continues to trend upward and with the proposed cuts, I grieve to think of what will happen to these children who have no recourse but to remain in harmful situations – the death rate for the abused is certain to trend upward also. If no intervention occurs, think of the high cost of human service programs when these children become adults,” Thorpe said. “Just think about the maximum capacity crowd that attended the Super Bowl at Cowboy Stadium – 103,000 – almost three times that crowd is the number of children reported for neglect, physical or sexual abuse in 2010, three stadiums full of children,” Thorpe said. In 2010 there were over 756 cases of child sexual abuse and/or severe child physical abuse reported to Children’s Safe Harbor and this is just in Montgomery, San Jacinto and Walker counties. “Statistics show that in America, a child is confirmed as abused or neglected every 35 seconds. Every six hours a child is killed by abuse or neglect. “These are horrifying statistics provided by Prevent Child Abuse Texas,” Thorpe said. Statistics show that a total of 103 children in San Jacinto County were victims of abuse and neglect in 2010; in Liberty County 187; Montgomery County 985; Polk County 162; Walker County 92 and Trinity County 30. While there were no fatalities from child abuse and neglect reported in 2010 in San Jacinto County, in neighboring Polk and Montgomery counties there were four in each county and one in neighboring Trinity County. “The law states that anyone having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect must report the case to any state or local law enforcement agency and to the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services,” Thorpe said. Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The Child Abuse Hotline is (1-800-252-5400). Thorpe and other local CPS board members hope legislatures won’t leave the most atrisk children and fragile families without resources to help on a community level. During the month of April – Child Abuse Prevention Month – let your legislators know how you feel.