Child advocate says child abuse cases still a concern in San Antonio

Child advocate shares what children and families have experienced

Local advocate discusses signs and causes of child abuse

SAN ANTONIOKristina Vestal was arrested after doctors reported her to San Antonio police for child abuse.

Authorities said Vestal was arrested after a young girl was evaluated at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for multiple injuries to her head, face and body.

The reporting person said they got a text from Vestal saying the girl was injured after falling off of the couch.

However, upon further evaluation, doctors didn’t believe Vestal’s story and notified the police.

Child Advocate Yolanda Valenzuela said she, too, doesn’t believe Vestal’s claims.

“I’ve had a newborn roll off that’s three months old on one of my cases and nothing happened to that newborn,” said Valenzuela. “Rolling off the sofa does not cause that kind of injury and multiple different types.”

Valenzuela worked for the nonprofit organization Child Advocates San Antonio, or CASA, for 15 years and was on the Bexar County Child Welfare Board.

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, for fiscal year 2020, it received 23,379 reports of child abuse cases. In 2019, it received 25,608 reports.

Valenzuela said stress can lead to child abuse.

“We had one case where the mom and dad, they were short on you know beating each other. They were at a high-stress level because school was going to start. They didn’t have shoes. They didn’t have clothes. They didn’t have backpacks,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela said they were able to provide the resources to the family thanks to the different organizations working together in San Antonio.

“Anybody can call 211 and they can say, ‘I need shoes. I need food. I need hot meals. I need Pampers. I need formula,’” Valenzuela said.

If you know of a child who is being abused, you can report it to the Texas Abuse Hotline and you can remain anonymous at 1-800-252-5400.

About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.