SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: The full town hall video is available on demand in the player above.
With the increase in unemployment and domestic violence and more families facing poverty due to COVID-19, there is a potential for an increase in child abuse and neglect in our community.
To help prevent child abuse during COVID-19, KSAT12 aired a KSAT Community Child Abuse Awareness Town Hall on Wednesday.
A panel of experts joined KSAT journalists Isis Romero and Patty Santos to answer questions live. The town hall also gave viewers an opportunity to learn the signs of abuse, how to report it and where to seek help.
Panelists included Angelica Cervantes, Chief Program Officer for Providence Place; Angela White, president and CEO of Child Advocates of San Antonio (CASA-SATX); and Judge Peter Sakai for Bexar County 225th District Court.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service (DFPS) 2020 Data Book, in Bexar County, there were 5,499 confirmed cases for child abuse and neglect in 2020.
In 2020 in Texas alone, 68,461 confirmed cases for child abuse and neglect were confirmed.
To report abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children, the elderly, or people with disabilities or violations of minimum standards in a child care operation, call this group:
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Texas Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or visit their website here.
Child abuse and neglect is seldom an isolated event. Below are six risk factors that contribute to the ecosystem of child maltreatment.
No. 1: Substance abuse and use
According to the Texas DFPS 2019 Data Book, 79% of the confirmed allegations of child abuse and neglect pertained to neglectful supervision. The overwhelming majority of neglectful supervision involved substance use and abuse.
Parent substance use and parent experience of a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) can have negative effects on children. Children having a parent with a Substance Use Disorder are at risk of experiencing direct effects, such as parental abuse or neglect, or indirect effects, such as fewer household resources.
No. 2: Domestic violence
Research indicates that in 30% to 60% of families where spousal abuse takes place, child maltreatment also occurs.
Children in violent homes may witness parental violence, be victims of physical abuse themselves, or be neglected by parents who are focused on their partners or unresponsive to their children due to their own fears. Even if children are not maltreated, they may experience harmful emotional consequences from the violence they witness.
No. 3: Poverty
Contributing factors of poverty include unemployment/under-employment, food insecurity, housing insecurity, limited educational attainment and the digital gap.
Poverty is a risk factor for neglect, but poverty does not equate to neglect. The presence of poverty alone does not mean a child is unsafe, unloved, or that a parent lacks the capacity to care for his or her child.
Poverty can make it more challenging for parents to meet certain of their children’s needs.
In Bexar County, the poverty rate is 16.4% with the largest demographic living in poverty being females aged 25 to 34, followed by females aged 18 to 24 and males aged 6 to 11.
No. 4: Untreated mental illness
Parents who are suffering from depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness may have trouble taking care of themselves, much less their children.
A mentally ill or traumatized parent may be distant and withdrawn from their children, or quick to anger without understanding why. Treatment for the caregiver means better care for the children.
No. 5: Intergenerational trauma
Research on intergenerational continuity of violence and adversity finds that individuals who experience abuse, neglect, or other forms of childhood adversity are more likely than are non-exposed individuals to have children who go on to have similar adverse childhood experiences, such as high school non-completion or unemployment.
No. 6: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years).
Children can have ACEs when exposed to violence, abuse, or neglect in witnessing violence in the home or community and especially when having a family member attempt or die by suicide.
When a child’s environment can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and growing up in a household with substance misuse, ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood.
ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities.
KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.