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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, an opportunity to focus attention on the ongoing tragedy of child abuse and neglect, and to highlight strategies and programs for preventing it.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we believe education, income and health are the building blocks of opportunity. Child abuse prevention is an important component of our work, because a stable, loving home provides a foundation for any child to thrive in these three key areas.
As we commemorate National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s explore how United Way works to prevent child abuse, the latest statistics for our region and state, and the role each of us can play to improve things here in North Texas.
United Way Works to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we work to provide support services and educational resources to parents to foster healthy, caring home lives. Together with our committed supporters, we give parents the tools and knowledge they need to ward off child abuse and neglect.
Two of our programs focus specifically on supporting families with young children:
Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES): HOPES helps local parents create home environments in which young children can thrive. Working with clinics, organizations and government agencies, the program seeks to reduce instances of child maltreatment by helping improve parenting skills through instruction, support and connections to community resources.
Texas Home Visiting Program (THVP): THVP helps good people become great parents. This free program for soon-to-be-parents and those with children under the age of 5 matches Dallas and Collin County families with a trained home visitor—a nurse, experienced parent, trained professional or volunteer—to answer questions, offer advice, provide support and teach parents how to prepare their kids for kindergarten.
Programs like HOPES and THVP can have a profound impact on new parents, as well as any family that experiences stressful times. As Ms. Adame, a HOPES student with our partner AVANCE Dallas, explained, “[Through HOPES,] I have learned to be more patient, to listen to my son, not to yell at him, rather to talk to him and understand him. Sometimes I asked myself why he gets rebellious. But now I have learned that it is normal; he is in that stage of development and that I, as a mother, have to guide him and help him express his emotions and needs.”
One of our other partners, Family Compass, relayed the story of Rachel, a client who experienced abuse as a child and was desperate to break the cycle with her own daughter: “As an adult, Rachel again found herself experiencing domestic abuse by the father of her daughter. With the guidance, knowledge and encouragement received by Family Compass, she was able to safely leave the volatile and abusive relationship with the father of her daughter. Today, Rachel is focused on healing and helping her daughter through the emotional trauma experienced as a witness of domestic violence. Rachel shared that she finally found the understanding and support she knew she needed as she continues to raise her resilient daughter and grow as a mother.”
Texas Child Abuse Statistics for 2021
After spiking during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, child abuse deaths in Texas fell by 20% last year. However, rates of child maltreatment, neglect and suicide remain high in the Lone Star State—a horrible reality that we as a community must continually work to prevent.
According to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), 199 Texas children died from abuse or neglect in 2021. That means nearly four children died every week across the state.
While any number of child abuse deaths is tragic, 2021’s total was 20% lower than 2020. That year, the height of the pandemic challenged families in a variety of ways, including school closures, rising unemployment, children spending more time at home, and an uptick in alcohol and drug use among parents. In 2021, some of these factors had lessened a bit, which may be a factor in the improved numbers. Despite the slight improvements, the 2021 statistics also revealed some disturbing trends:
Child Abuse in North Texas
Throughout the pandemic, reports of child abuse fell dramatically, because many instances that would typically be noticed by a teacher or doctor went unreported. Experts say this factor has skewed the child abuse statistics for 2020 and 2021, and the true incidence of child abuse is likely much higher than reported.
What does that mean in North Texas? In our region, the number of child abuse and neglect cases fell sharply from 2020 to 2021—which is progress. However, 2021 still saw 14,445 confirmed incidents of child harm in our region, according to Child Protective Services (CPS). That means North Texas was the worst region in Texas for child abuse and neglect last year.
About one-third of those CPS cases—4,919—happened in Dallas County, which also had the second-highest number of child fatalities in the state, with 18.
These figures all point to a dire need for our North Texas community to do more to prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever begins.
Join Our Efforts to Prevent Child Abuse
Child abuse cases remain high in North Texas, and we believe every child deserves protection. Join us as we work to prevent child abuse across our region. Here are three ways to get involved now:
Suspect Child Abuse?
If you suspect abuse or neglect, contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services toll-free at 1-800-252-5400, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also file a report via their Abuse Hotline website.
If you are a parent who is struggling with keeping your children safe and healthy, please contact one of our partner agencies for resources and support: