SAN ANTONIO -

If law enforcement is the front line against child abuse, St. P.J.'s Children's Home gets the casualties: children who who have faced a horrific list of issues.

"They make up the highest percentage of teen pregnancy, of school dropouts, of homelessness," said James Castro, the home's executive director.

Child abuse is a major issue in Bexar County, and crimes of the kind have been trending upward, authorities say.

According to figures issued by Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti, chairman of a blue ribbon task force aimed at finding ways to combat child abuse, in 2008, about 18,000 cases were investigated county-wide, compared with nearly 20,000 last year. Child deaths have increased 75 percent, from 12 to 20, over that same period.

"If we can keep children from being abused and neglected in the first place, they don't have to work through all those traumatic issues that impact them emotionally, psychologically," Castro said.

Castro said the key is to get the message out to parents, and with enough concerned groups in San Antonio, that's possible.

But different agendas slow the process.

"We need to bring our voices together and have a concerted strategy on how to address this issue," said Castro.

Castro hopes this month's events will come together around prevention.

"It's a start. But that's all it is," he said. "We need efforts like these every week, every month."