By Judy HesterSecretary, SJC Child Welfare Board
COLDSPRING — Each April the San Jacinto County Child Welfare Board, along with Child Protective Services and its parent agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, join hands with our local government, community groups, churches, service organizations and hometown citizens to put the spotlight on recognizing, preventing and reporting child abuse.
It is a time to focus on ways not only to protect children but also to prevent abuse from ever occurring. This is a great opportunity for our county to make a difference in young lives, so during the month of April, residents that are concerned about the problem of child abuse are asked to wear blue.
The Child Welfare Board's most dramatic statement concerning child abuse was the placement of a display of heroes on the courthouse lawn.
The signs indicate "Children Need Heroes, but Abused Children Need Superheroes." Each star placed on the courthouse lawn represents a child who was abused during 2020, with the one black star indicating one child's death that tragically occurred that year.
In Texas during 2020, there were 251 deaths with one in San Jacinto County. San Jacinto county had 205 investigations of child abuse, 76 of those being confirmed victims. This is a staggering number for our state and our county, and we should all accept the responsibility of making sure that in the future none of our children are ever included in these statistics.
We can look away and often do look away, but the repercussions of child abuse are affecting people every day. Abused children are more likely to be substance abusers, perform poorly in school, or become juvenile delinquents.
Millions of our tax dollars are spent annually to pay the financial price of child abuse from child protective services and foster care to the cost for court, law enforcement, hospital, medicine, and mental care.
In 1989 a heartbroken grandmother, Bonnie Finney, took a stand against child abuse by tying a blue ribbon to the antenna of her minivan in remembrance of her late grandson, 3-year-old Bubba Dickenson.
The body of Bubba was found bound, beaten and bruised in a weighted toolbox at the bottom of a canal. He had been killed by the boyfriend of the child's mother. Bonnie vowed to never forget the battered and bruised body of her grandson and uses the wearing of blue as a reminder to fight for the protection of all children against abuse.
As you drive by the San Jacinto courthouse, you will notice the Child Abuse Prevention flag displayed on the flagpole during the month of April.
Judge Fritz Faulkner and the Commissioner's Court issued an official proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention month. The Child Welfare Board decorated the gazebo on the courthouse lawn with blue ribbons to highlight the fight to end child abuse. April 25th was "Blue Sunday" and all churches in the county participated in a day of prayer for the children and families who have suffered.
We must be the voice for our children and give them hope, courage and love. Remember, residents are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911. For all other cases in Texas, call the abuse and neglect hotline at (800) 252-5400. Let's all join hands and stop child abuse.