LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A crowd of about 100 people with blue shirts formed a semi-circle around the Angelina County Courthouse flagpole Monday morning. They were standing up against child abuse and hoping for reform in the foster care system.
The event was part of the group's annual campaign to bring awareness to victims of child abuse.
"This is a growing concern," County Court-at-law Judge Clyde Herrington told the crowd. "When I first started in law practice, children had to defend themselves. Children had to take the stand and answer testimony. Now we have child advocates and nurses and other support staff that can fight for these children."
In Texas, 167,753 children are reported abused or neglected every year. Last year in Angelina County, 227 cases were confirmed. 108 children from the county were placed in Foster Care. It is a system that has got much-needed help after a federal judge ruled in unconstitutional in 2015, but leaders still say there is room for improvement.
"You see those numbers in our county, and they are high but they are down from last year," County Judge Wes Suiter said in a speech.
Local leaders say the change has to come from the state legislature.
"We did get some changes last year, that gave the system more money and more workers but we need more," said President of the Child Advocacy Board Wayne Haglund. "There are programs that these families need, but the state just doesn't pay for them. Tax cuts don't build roads, they don't hire officers, and they don't protect children. We have to get past the belief that tax cuts are the answer to everything."
Supporters at the rally also heard from 18-year-old Kenzie David. David has been in the foster system her whole life.
"I would get angry, and then I would just leave," David said. "I was mad at everybody because I was taken away from people where I was comfortable and I just knew them. I ran away with frustration, and I didn't think people would understand me."
David would end up in a stable home that she calls her forever family. She has been accepted into Lamar University where she hopes to graduate and go into social work and help others in her situation.
"I was able to find that forever family and find who were always going to be there for me," David said. "Some people aren't. You have some people aging out of the system that wasn't able to find that, and that's very difficult for people."