By Dennis M. Ayotte, Jr
SAN ANTONIO — To date, in Bexar county alone six children ranging from ages of three days to 17 have died because of child abuse or neglect, this year.
Last year, an astonishing 20 died due to the same cause. Since 2008, the number has steadily increased from 12 to 13 in 2009 and up to 17 in 2010 according to the Annual DFPS and Data Book. This year the county is on pace for another 18 child deaths caused by abuse.
“It’s going to take strong prevention efforts and education efforts so that we raise a generation of parents who won’t even think about abusing their children or neglecting their children,” Mayor Julián Castro said. “I think anytime that you have a child that is abused it is a black-eye on the community andallofushavearoleto play to prevent it.”
“The most alarming thing to me is that you see the numbers keep going up despite the fact that we have had very horrific public instances of child abuse,” the Mayor added.
Not only have the number of child fatalities increased but the amount of child re-movals from abusive homes has gone up as well. In 2008 the number escalated from 1,434 removals to 2,046 in 2011. Despite the shocking numbers, the issue has fallen on deaf ears according to Senator Carlos Uresti after undergoing massive budget cuts to help prevent these numbers from rising.
“It makes me mad,” Uresti said. “I don’t just say that here, I say that on the Senate floor and to my colleagues. I have brought this to their (the state’s) attention letting them know we are cutting these prevention services by 44% and it falls on deaf ears. It’s unfortunate and it’s sad but I tell you we not only have a legal obligation to take care of these children but we have a moral obligation to take care of these children. Regardless of what their priorities are we need to step forward and we need to prioritize correctly. And what’s more important than our children?”
In the last session of the Legislature, the Health and Human Services budget was cut by 17.2% equaling more than $11 billion. Full-time Child Protective Services (CPS) direct delivery staff employees were reduced by 8% from the number appropriated in 2009.
Moreover, adoption support services were cut by 30%.
To bring light to the issue Senator Uresti has been vigilante the past eight years in keeping this at the forefront of the state’s mind and was instrumental in forming the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Their primary focus is heightening awareness on the issue and raising funds for organizations whose mission is to protect our children.
“We are the only county to have an established Blue Ribbon Task Force like the one we have here in Bexar County,” Uresti explained.
A state-wide Blue Ribbon Task Force that is appointed by the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker was formed and are going to submit a report and recommendations to the legislature at the end of this year before the session starts in January according to Uresti with the number one priority being prevention.
“We need to properly and adequately budget for these child abuse and neglect services. We decimated these programs last year by 44% we were only spending 1% of the total budget and they cut that in half. That’s why people are wondering what’s going on,” Uresti said.
The entire month of April is dedicated to raising awareness and the prevention of child abuse. It has been declared April Madness by Uresti and the community’s constituents to not let this issue fall by the wayside.