Starved 6-year-old weighing 19 pounds has advocates sending strong message to community

Look for red flags, report abuse to 911 or anonymously to 1-800-252-5400

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A disturbing child abuse and neglect case from Dec. 3 has shocked the community.

Jennifer Delgado, 31, was arrested after taking a 6-year-old girl to the hospital because she was sick and turning blue.

Police have not released how Delgado is related to the child, but doctors say, the girl was seriously neglected, in filthy clothes. Her hair was falling out, her were teeth decaying and she was severely malnourished, weighing only 19 pounds.

"When my kids were 6 years old, they weighed 45, 50 pounds. A 6-year-old weighing 19 pounds, that's the weight of a child that turns 1," said Yolanda Valenzuela, a child advocate, who is on the Bexar County Child Welfare Board.

In Valenzuela's 15 years of advocacy, child abuse has skyrocketed, rising 36 percent in Bexar County from 2014 to 2017, according to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

In the past two years, there have been several sickening, high profile cases.

In May, 48-year-old Deborah Darden was arrested when police found her 16-year-old daughter starved, under-developed and covered with signs of abuse.

In 2016, a neighbor called police when they found two children chained up, emaciated, and injured in a backyard. The man and woman who were supposed to be caring for them are both serving lengthy prison sentences.

"Several neighbors after the fact said, 'We heard something for up to two weeks.' It took an individual who lived down the street to look over the fence, see these kids chained up and call in. Those poor kids suffered," Valenzuela said.

Now, last week's 6-year-old victim has been added to the list of abuse cases.

"When a child starves, they start losing their hair, their hair turns lighter. This child had patches of hair missing. These were physical things that were obvious to anybody who's been around her," Valenzuela said.

She said red flags can also be what you don't see.

"At 6, a child should be in school. Why is this child not coming to school, and who went to check on this child?" she asked.

Valenzuela said the entire community must take responsibility.

"The child doesn't have a voice. A lot of people say, 'It's not my business.' It's everybody problem when this child's close to death," she said.

She said many people don't report abuse because they don't want to give their name, but anonymous reports can be made to the hotline by calling 1-800-252-5400. Callers can give an address with no questions asked.

Anyone can also call 911, and police or sheriff's deputies will check out the case to see if further action needs to be taken.

Valenzuela said all it takes is suspicion to report potential abuse. There's nothing to lose and lives can be saved.

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