It’s that time of year again…April! That’s right, that time to make you all aware of child abuse prevention. And, who better to make you aware than someone who specializes in child abuse prevention and intervention. I am what you call a conservatorship caseworker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. No, I am not an official representative of the State of Texas. I am just a very enthusiastic young social worker who is pleased to inform you how child abuse prevention awareness month can directly empower the women who exceed!
In just about every job related training, I can look around the room and see about a 9/10 ratio of men to women as front line caseworkers, social workers, and therapist. I can see that ratio being reflected in the leadership roles as well. At first, it puzzled me. Historically speaking, men have been viewed as the “protectors” and the ones who keep us (women and children) safe from harm. So, why is it that they are not highly represented in an agency that focuses on family protection? Because, WOMEN KNOW SAFETY. Think about it! When you were younger, who was it to caution you about all the dangers in the world, both inside and outside of the home? Was it your father to remind you to keep electronics away from water or to never microwave aluminum (let’s be clear, some dads are safety experts too)? It was almost always that female parental figure who knew all the things to keep children,and men, safe day to day.
Now for the statistics! In a 2018 review by my agency, of the 82 confirmed abuse or neglect cases that resulted in a child fatality, 44 of those cases identified mothers as the perpetrator. There is little to no correlation between outside factors that can render an explanation such as substance abuse, mental health, or domestic violence. Yet, in that same review, it was found that the cause of death was physical trauma to the body. I know what you are thinking. I just made women seem like rock stars when it comes to safety, but it looks like we need some work. You are absolutely right! In my own experience working with mothers who have had their children placed in foster care or die due to abuse or neglect, I notice some things they have in common. The female parental figure I described earlier was not present in their life to ignite that motherly response to safety. They don’t have a phenomenal woman in their life to empower them to be the best them before they can be the best mom.
Although I am not a mom, and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on child safety, I am reminded by superiors and trainers that I am still one phone call away from having my own case against me. Children are WORK. All too often women are left to care for them alone. Fathers leave and family members claim to “mind their own business.” That is not how it should be. If you see a mother struggling, it is alright to assist her. If you know that something is going on in a home or family that shouldn’t be kept quiet, make that referral call by calling 1-800-252-5400. We even have an online reporting portal at https://www.txabusehotline.org/. You just might save a life!
Just like there are interventions, such as the work that I do, there are likewise prevention programs that are promoted during April. It is so much more productive to work to prevent child abuse and neglect than it is to combat it once it has occurred. Our children deserve it!
The DFPS Prevention and Early Intervention Division (PEI) assists communities in identifying, developing, and delivering high quality prevention and early intervention programs designed to address risk factors and build protective factors within families to prevent juvenile delinquency and child maltreatment. Prevention services are provided through contracts with non-profit organizations and local governments throughout Texas.
PEI programs reached more than 67,000 families in FY2018, and 99 percent of children and youth remained safe from maltreatment while receiving PEI services. As impressively, more than 95 percent of youth engaged in services avoided any involvement with the juvenile justice system.
The current PEI-contracted programs include services for children, youth, and families. You can find them below!