Advocate: Youth plays part in parents abusing children

Immaturity, repeat pregnancy adds to abuse risk

Author: Matt Rivers, Video Journalist, mrivers@ksat.com
Published On: May 14 2012 05:12:31 PM CDT   Updated On: May 14 2012 05:32:26 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

A 4-year-old child died last week after being severely abused by a young mother and her boyfriend. This case has become part part of what some experts have called a disturbing trend among young parents in San Antonio.

Kayla Garcia, 4, a child with a sweet smile, died last week. Police say her 20-year-old mother and her 23-year-old boyfriend, are suspected in her death.

"We see parents getting overwhelmed, not knowing how to deal with the situation, and sometimes turning to violence," said Annette Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Children's Shelter, a nonprofit children's advocacy center.

The organization has seen thousands of young parents come through its doors.

Rodriguez said as with most young people, young parents tend to think the world revolves around them. So when a baby cries simply because it's tired or hungry, teens see something else.

"It becomes an idea of, 'You're crying because you're trying to make me mad,' because it's something that I did," said Rodriguez.

That can lead to abuse, she said. Coupled with immaturity, another troubling stat, Bexar county has one of the highest rates of repeat pregnancy in the country, according to Rodriguez.

In San Antonio, young mothers have a higher chance of getting pregnant within 12 to 18 months after the birth of their first child.

So a young couple might be able to handle one child, but two or three is too much.

Programs at the Children's Shelter designed to educate, Rodriguez argued, is the first step in prevention.

"You can expect what's going to happen, and not have unrealistic expectations," said Rodriguez.