LUFKIN, TX (News Release) - About 75 people attended a moving event to mark April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month at the Lufkin City Hall Atrium on Monday.
With The Memorial to Abused and Neglect Children bearing the names of the 227 children – including five from Angelina and Polk Counties – who had died in 2010 as the backdrop, community leaders united to call for greater vigilance in the battle against child abuse and neglect.
Judge Wes Suiter read a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
"We are blessed to have such strong community partners who advocate for children. However, no one should turn a blind eye to child abuse. It is a worldwide problem and awareness is part of the solution," said Natalie Thornton, executive director of CASA of the Pines, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers who speak up for abused or neglected children in court. Last year, CASA of the Pines served 275 children and had 57 volunteers who advocated for those in care. But, about 35 children did not have CASA speaking up for them.
Stephen Lantis, Senior Minister at First Chirstian Church offered a prayer for the children. The Lufkin Middle School Choir sang several songs.
Texas CASA Chief Executive Officer Joe Gagen, who is taking the memorial on a seven-city tour of East Texas for Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, said child abuse is an epidemic. Every eight minutes a Texas child experienced abuse or neglect, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Nearly 67,000 children in Texas were confirmed as victims of abuse and neglect in 2010 and more than 16,000 children were removed from their homes because their lives were believed to be in danger, Gagen said.
But the worst number, Gagen said, was 227 – the number of children who died of abuse or neglect. That translated into a child dying every 38 hours in Texas.
Noting the memorial which listed the names of the children, Gagen said it was incumbent upon all Texas residents to speak up for those whose voices had been silenced and to make sure their short live and their deaths were not in vain.
He urged those at Monday's event to get more involved in breaking the cycle of abuse by becoming a CASA advocate, a foster or adoptive parent or supporting agencies that serve abused or neglected children.