COLUMNS

Child Maltreatment

Hector L. Villarreal, Texas Crime Victims Institute Committee Member

In Texas, the number of abused and neglected children seems to be going down as the state tackles the deadly viral outbreak, well at least that what it looks like on paper. There have been a smaller number of suspected cases reported to the state’s abuse hotline, however, child welfare advocates say that regression is simulated and denies the ugly truth. Amongst the global pandemic that has taken the lives of thousands and closed schools, daycares and other social services, more Texas children are likely to be suffering from abuse.

Child Maltreatment Facts:

What is Child Maltreatment?

It is defined as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of the parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “failure to act which can cause imminent risk of harm to a child” (child welfare gateway information, n.d.). This includes the physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.

Statistics:

  • 1 in 7 children have experienced child maltreatment in the past year, most likely an underestimate.
  • In 2019, there were 1,840 child fatalities due to child maltreatment in the U.S., with 235 of those in Texas.
  • Children in families of low socioeconomic status are five time more likely to experience child abuse and/or neglect.
  • Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment.
  • Children three years or younger are the most vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
  • (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, n.d.

Consequences of Child Maltreatment:

Children may suffer from physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, and emotional/psychological problems such as anxiety. This will have a lifelong impact on the child. An example for instance, those children who have been subjected to violent behavior have an increased risk of injury, future victimization and perpetration of violence, substance abuse, and limited employment opportunities. This may lead to toxic stress that may change the brain development and increased risk for the development of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and other learning difficulties.

Who Can Report Child Maltreatment?

  • In Texas, it is a requirement for any person who is over the age of 18 that suspects a child has been abused or neglected must report it.
  • They can be made online.
  • In the case of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

How Can You Help?

  • Educate children on the signs of abuse, such as use of appropriate terms for body parts.
  • Raise awareness within schools through campaigns.
  • Offer training to school staff and parents.

Resources:

  • 9-1-1
  • Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – 1-800-252-5400 or https://www.txabusehotline.org
  • Children’s Safe Harbor – (936) 756-4644 or https://childrenssafeharbor.org
  • The Children’s Assessment Center – (713) 986-3300 or https://cachouston.org
  • Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-422-4553 or https://www.childhelp.org