LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Child advocates gathered at the Angelina County Courthouse on Thursday to raise awareness for abused children as numbers indicate cases are on the rise.
The event was put on by the Angelina County Child Welfare Board. Events like the one in Lufkin will take place all around the state during the month of April. The events are used to educate the public about a growing case load.
According to data from Child Protective Services, the Deep East Texas region reported 1,185 children being placed in foster care during 2015. The region also reported seven children dying last year. Angelina County had 129 children placed in foster care. Currently the county has 179 foster children. With the number of cases rising, advocates believe it shows signs of improved awareness.
"The positive thing is because the numbers are higher now, people are recognizing it and seeing it and notifying authorities," said Lufkin Community Partners President Tammi Axelson.
Some of the children will eventually find a forever home while others will be reunited with their parents after they prove to the courts and CPS that they can be good parents. Jena Edgar is a success story and spoke at the ceremony.
"I was very ugly to my caseworker," Edgar said. "I was mad at them because I thought they just wanted to take my kids away. I know it was just part of my own addiction."
Edgar is looking to be a mentor or spokesperson against abuse.
"Her case is like many," said Judge Derek Flournoy. "The majority of them are drug cases, so in my opinion, it all goes back to education, the treatment and those issues to help the parents."
Attorney Wayne Hauglund said a lot of work needs to be done to better help CPS and other advocates.
"It is not going to be solved through incarceration," Haglund said. "Without getting too political, I urge people to call their state representatives and get some help for these groups. This problem has got to be addressed. CPS is overwhelmed. They need people, they need money, they need everything they can."
Advocates stressed it is not just a county issue. Many believe counties and agencies in neighboring counties do the best work when they share resources and help each other.
"It's not any one group or any one person," said Ashley Cook with Harold's House. "It takes all of us together to make a difference for a child."