Advocacy groups offering resources as Lubbock is ranked second in the state for high rates of child abuse

The shelves in the resource room of the Children‘s Advocacy Center in Lubbock are filled with dozens of hand-knit blankets, colorful books and stuffed animals. It takes three full walls of the room to contain everything.

This is where abused children go after a forensic interview with investigators. Children are encouraged to pick up any item that comforts them after sharing their story.

“It’s always an ongoing donation that we need throughout the year, every year,” said Derek Danner, CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center. “We did 1,094 forensic interviews last year, so we’re looking at those things a bit.”

A report from the Department of Family and Protective Services shows that in 2020, Texas had approximately 65,000 victims of child abuse. For a second straight year, Lubbock has the second highest rate of child abuse in the state after Abilene.

Over the past year, Danner said there were about 13 confirmed victims out of every 1,000 children.

“It’s been going down over the last few years for our area,” Danner said.

According to Danner, the rate of child abuse in Lubbock can fluctuate throughout the year and correlates with when school is in session. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Danner said the number of reports dropped, but that was likely due to educators not seeing children daily to notice signs of abuse.

“We saw a drop in interviews that year, we only did 893,” Danner explained. “We may see a slowdown in admissions statewide again because they’re not in school, so you don’t have professional reporting. Summer school begins, which again increases these reports because the children are in contact with the people they see.

Dr Patti Patterson, child abuse expert for Covenant Children’s, said she has also noticed a drop in numbers during the pandemic.

“I see the worst – I see the severe head injuries, the broken bones, the burns, and at first I saw an increase in severe head injuries, but then it subsided,” Patterson said. “I think some of the calm and the number of reports that have come out may be kind of a fake thing.”

Patterson said many factors can add stress to a family’s life, including financial or addiction issues, and all of these can lead to abusive situations.

“There’s a lot of child poverty in Lubbock, we also have high teenage pregnancy rates,” Patterson said. “Another thing that I see a lot is drug addiction and its relationship to child abuse – whether it’s cocaine, meth or alcohol.”

Other factors, such as having other adults in the home who are not related to the children, can also lead to abuse.

“If there is an unrelated adult in the home, a child has a 9 times greater risk of dying,” Patterson explained.

Patterson said abuse can have long-term consequences for the victim, who may continue the cycle of abuse through destructive behavior as adults.

“These children are at increased risk for health effects — physical and mental health,” Patterson explained. “Physical abuse, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, depression, even heart or lung disease. They are more likely to smoke, more likely to drink heavily.

Patterson added: “It’s a very basic part of being human, you should be able to trust your parents. If you can’t, then that’s a very basic problem for these kids.

Another issue facing children in the Lubbock area is foster care. DePelchin Children’s Center works with families in adoption services and child abuse prevention, but also focuses on foster families.

“This exercise, nearly 300 children were placed in foster care in the Lubbock-Amarillo area alone,” said Jesse Booher, DePelchin’s chief operating officer. “Last year, nearly 1,000 children were placed in foster care.”

Booher said the number had gone down over the years, but there were still plenty of children who needed help before they reached the foster care system.

“Fostering is the end of the safety net — you fell through a lot of different safety nets if you got to a place where you go into foster care,” Booher said. “What we’re hoping to see are resources and energy shifted to the beginning of the continuum, so we can catch kids and reach families before they fall into foster care.”

However, Booher said the number of alleged victims of abuse or neglect has increased dramatically.

“There were 10,500 alleged victims of abuse and neglect, and that’s significantly more than last year,” Booher said. “This figure is really shocking. This is something we should all be concerned about. It’s going in the wrong direction. »

Since there’s no clear reason why Lubbock’s child abuse rate is so high, Danner of the Children’s Advocacy Center said they’ll likely stay busy year-round.

“We would like to retire from a job, and that’s what we’re trying to do, but we need prevention,” Danner said. “It’s something we need to work on and keep in mind 365 days a year, our children are our greatest resource for the future and we need to take care of them.”

Danner said Lubbock is full of resources not only for children, but also for parents who need help dealing with stress.

“If you’re having problems or certain feelings, ask for help — there’s nothing wrong with asking for help,” Danner said. “We have resources for adults who may need some coping skills so they don’t get triggered because it’s usually someone who couldn’t manage and cope with the situation at that time. that time. We all need help, we all need grace, use the resources we have and take care of our children.

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