You can make a difference in a child’s life
The month of April marks a time of recognition for a subject many find uncomfortable albeit necessary to bring awareness to; National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time for communities to rally together to support and provide for children who are in need of positive life experiences, especially those who have been subjected to abuse of any kind.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in 2020, there were a staggering 272, 248 allegations of abuse or neglect, with 68,461 confirmed cases among children and teenagers. Along with the 16,522 children that were removed from their homes for their protection, there were tragically 251 deaths at the hands of parents/caregivers. For Bowie County, 187 children entered child protective services and 74 were removed from their homes; 20 children are currently awaiting adoption in the county.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum: “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” A “child” under this definition generally means a person who is younger than age 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
In Texas there are four basic categories in which abuse can fall, neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional. Each has different definitions and signs, however, children being abused likely experience more than one type.
Recently, a long-time local who relocated to south Texas, Ashley Hastings, accepted a position with the DFPS as a CPS Investigation Supervisor. Five years ago Ashley had no plans on a career with the organization, but knew that she wanted to “be someone to make a difference in someone else’s life, and now feels, “this career chose me.”
Starting out as a Child Protective Services Investigator, the young mother of two, states the position was, “One of the toughest, emotionally difficult, and time consuming jobs. However it was worth every minute.”
Now as a supervisor, she oversees a team of seven investigators and a caseworker assistant; “The hardest part of my job is the emotional and secondary trauma that caseworkers experience. We see children who have and are experiencing less than unpleasant situations on a daily basis.”
The hard times are worth it to Ashley when she knows she made a difference in a child’s life and ensures their safety. “Protecting children is not something that one can do alone, it takes a team and community and I’m just happy that I can play a small part in that team.”
Locally, the Bowie County Child Protective Services Board aims to develop programs for the protection, care, and well being of neglected and abused children throughout Bowie County. The organization aims to provide awareness to the community, fill any children’s services gaps, work toward the prevention of child abuse, and so much more.
When speaking about how others can get involved and help the children, Ashley told the Tribune, “Communities play a big role in children’s safety...You can make a difference in a child’s life too, big or small, it matters to them all.”
To report abuse or neglect, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services can be contacted by phone at 1-800-252-5400 or online at www.txabusehotline.org.
If a child is in imminent danger, never hesitate to contact the local authorities. Help put an end to the avoidable abuse and neglect could make a difference and save lives.