A Look Inside The Investigative Series On Child Abuse And Neglect
Coming up this Sunday, the Abilene Reporter-News will publish the second part to their series, "Too Many Cries," an investigative report on why Abilene’s region ranks highest in the state for child abuse and neglect.
In the first part of the series, published in October, writer Brooke Crum presented a problem- Abilene’s region has ranked highest in the state for child abuse and neglect for the past 5 years. Last year the Abilene-Wichita Falls region had 21 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children, that amounts to 2,763 confirmed victims. Heavy drug use in the region plays a role in the high rate but Crum discovered another contributing factor.
"Maybe Abilene doesn’t have the most abuse, maybe it’s not just more kids being abused, but it’s better reporting," Crum said.
In rural regions people go to church together, talk to their neighbors and are more likely to report a problem, which isn’t always the case in larger cities. But perhaps the biggest problem surrounding this issue is within Child Protective Services itself. The agency has trouble keeping caseworkers on hand, because let’s face it, the job is tough.
"It’s a big topic in state legislature right now, they have a new commissioner over the Department of Family and Protective Services, he’s really trying to address that problem, he wants to hire more case workers, give them raises and just try to get these kids the attention they need," Crum said.
From the state level, back down to the local level, Crum has seen that there are many programs and agencies working together on behalf of these kids. She’s watched smooth coordination between the Abilene police department, CPS and the child advocacy center.
"What’s really surprised me is that everyone approaches this as a community problem, it’s not a family problem, it’s not the parent’s problem, it’s not CPS’s problem, it’s a community problem when all of our children suffer," Crum said.
Now that the first part of the series has presented the problem, the next chapter coming Sunday will focus on the people dealing with the consequences of child abuse and neglect, particularly foster parents. Crum interviewed a foster family in Merkel, she was amazed by how much training and paperwork it takes to become a foster parent.
"A lot of people see it as a ministry and a way to do God’s work, and they take these kids in, they love them, they know that they might not stay with them all the time but that doesn’t stop them from caring for them as they were their own children," Crum said. "I think that’s what’s really touching and I think that’s really going to help these kids overcome what they’ve been through."
The series will continue in December with another chapter focusing on solutions to the problem. Crum is writing about all the ways that the community can get involved and make a difference in the life of a child.