SAN ANTONIO – Data released this month by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services shows an increase in child abuse and neglect deaths in 2020, a jump from the previous two years.
In 2020, 251 Texas children died of abuse or neglect, according to data collected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that was released on March 1, 2021. That statistic was 235 in 2019 and 211 in 2018.
Carrie Wilcoxson, a child abuse prevention advocate, says there was a decrease in the number of child abuse cases but an increase in the number of fatalities.
“Because a lot of your reports were coming in from hospitals and law enforcement, it may suggest that the type of abuse was serious injury-type abuse. So near-fatal to fatal,” Wilcoxson said.
Teachers, police and medical staff are often the top three groups that raise the alarm on child abuse. This year, teachers’ reporting fell, likely due to COVID-19 and teachers not having face-to-face contact with kids. Wilcoxson said those closest to the children, like family or neighbors, are often less likely to report the abuse.
“We really need to encourage those individuals to be bigger and braver about their own level of uncomfortableness to start intervening,” she said.
A grandmother to four children who spoke with KSAT on condition of anonymity to protect the children says she wants to be a voice for other families after what the kids were put through.
“These children need a voice,” she said.
The woman’s 8-week-old granddaughter had 25 fractures all over her body when she was taken from her parent. Three other siblings were also left with issues stemming from neglect.
“Everyone needs to be held accountable who knew something,” she said.
The grandmother adopted the children and is helping them through their trauma.
Often, the children who are abused cannot speak up because they are under the age of 3 years old, Wilcoxson said.
The state data also shows 20 death cases in Region 8, the area to which Bexar County belongs. Thirteen of the cases were from Bexar County in 2020.
In 2019, there were 10 cases in Region 8. Nine of them were from Bexar County. The data also shows the majority of the cases did not have an active case being investigated by Child Protective Services.
Efforts are underway to hold those who know about abuse and fail to report it to face harsher punishment. House Bill 1009, which would raise the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony, is currently being reviewed in committee.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month in Bexar County. The community is encouraged to be a part of a special online ceremony that starts at 11 a.m. Friday. You can view it by clicking here.
To report abuse, call the Texas 24/7 abuse hotline at 800-252-5400.