— By LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO COUNTY – As April gestures in growth and renewal, it is also a month set aside to reflect on child abuse prevention.
So far in 2014, the community heard the stories of two men sentenced to 99 years, without parole, for “super” aggravated sexual assault of this county’s children – one sentenced by a jury of peers and the other by District Judge Michael Moore.
In investigations leading up to the trials, the young children – all under age 6 – told of acts, sensations and feelings that no child that age would ever know or make up. And while these two convicted perpetrators are locked away, there are many more men and women who victimize Palo Pinto County children.
Not all cases of abuse involve sexual assault. Abuse ranges from parental neglect to death of a child.
According to local Child Protective Services reports, investigators confirmed 198 child victims in 111 cases of child abuse in the county. In comparison, neighboring Parker County – greater than four times the population of Palo Pinto County – had just double the number of confirmed cases of child abuse.
According to these numbers, on average in 2013, a Palo Pinto County child was a “confirmed victim” of child abuse every 1.8 days.
In 2013, Palo Pinto County CPS:
• Removed 65 children from their homes because of child abuse and neglect.
• Identified 50 children as victims of physical abuse.
• Identified 13 children victims of sexual abuse.
• Identified 38 children as victims of either medical or physical neglect.
Some cases are remedied with willing parents and education and lives can be turned around for the good through education, awareness and understanding, which is one purpose of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and “Go Blue Day.”
Go Blue events, organizations
There are several local “Go Blue” organizations committed to fighting child abuse and caring for its victims. This year, the Palo Pinto County Child Welfare Board, the new Children’s Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County (CACPPC) and Palo Pinto County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are working together during April to promote awareness through many activities.
Every Tuesday throughout April, several restaurants will help spread awareness on child-abuse prevention and some will even donate a portion of their dine-in proceeds to benefit all local “Go Blue” agencies.
Restaurants sharing their support include Shotgun’s, Mr. Jim’s Pizza, Fuzzy’s, Chili’s, Pastafina, Hogg’s Pit, Old School Pizza, Mesquite Pit and Hickey’s Dairy Queen.
Go Blue events include:
• Tuesday, April 1 – Kick-off lunch, benefitting the Child Welfare Board. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Steve Perdue Training Center, located at 300 S. Oak Ave. Orders placed by 10 a.m. can be delivered – call 940-452-0775 or 940-328-2220. A lunch plate is $5; however, larger donations are always accepted.
• Thursday, April 3 – CACPPC’s fundraiser event “Bags, Bingo and Badges” at Clark Gardens Botanical Park. Admission is at 5:30 p.m. and the fun begins promptly at 6 p.m. For information, call 940-445-7380.
• Tuesday, April 8 – At the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Pinto County Courthouse, CASA and Go Blue agencies will display blue pinwheels and other items that represent children from Palo Pinto County who are in foster care.
• Wednesday, April 9 – is official “Go Blue Day.” Citizens are encouraged to show support for organizations that work to prevent child abuse and help victims by wearing blue this day. Find out more by visiting, and “liking,” the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tccwb.
• Monday, April 14 – balloon release – one for each Palo Pinto County victim of child abuse – at each Mineral Wells ISD campus.
• Thursday, April 24 – Child Welfare Board’s “Stars Shine for Palo Pinto Kids” fundraiser. Local stars, including Taylor Hickey, will play at Mineral Wells High School Cafeteria. Doors open at 6 p.m. and entertainment begins at 7 p.m. There will be appetizers, a silent auction and live auction. Tickets are $15 per person. For more information, call 940-328-2220.
• Sunday, April 27 – National Blue Sunday, a day when churches across the nation take time in their service to pray for the victims of child abuse and those who rescue them. Visit www.bluesunday.org for more information.
• Tuesday, April 29 – Day of Prayer for victims of child abuse and CACPPC Open House.
Each Go Blue non-profit organization has a unique role in helping victims of child abuse. While each one enters the scene at different points, all work together to give children a voice.
Child Welfare Board, Rainbow Room
When CPS removes a child from a home, this engages the Child Welfare Board and Rainbow Room. Since children are often taken into protective custody only with the clothes they have on, the Rainbow Room is a place where CPS staff can obtain needed brand-new clothes, bedding, toiletries and other needed items for each child.
The Child Welfare Board, a United Way agency, remains active meeting the needs of that child, such as through clothing allotment checks, supporting graduating seniors and providing funds for drug and hair-follicle testing as requested by CPS.
CAC for Palo Pinto County
The new CACPPC exists to help restore the lives of victims of child abuse and their non-offending family members.
It brings, under one roof, local law enforcement investigators, Child Protective Services’ investigators, prosecutors and medical and mental-health professionals, who serve on the CACPPC’s multidisciplinary team.
The team will meet regularly to collaboratively review and track case of allegations of criminal abuse, including sexual, physical and serious neglect.
In addition to helping rebuild the lives of child victims and non-offending family members, MDT members will conduct forensic interviews and work together to build a legal case against alleged perpetrators.
In Texas, out of 40,000 child victims served at a CAC each year, 26 percent were not old enough to attend kindergarten. Statistics show that 33 percent are male and 67 percent female.
Volunteer court-appointed special advocates enter the scene after a child is removed from the home and a court case is filed. CASA community volunteers (also called a guardian ad litem) advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the court system.
To report suspected child abuse, please call the CPS 24-hour hotline at 800-252-5400.
Libby Cluett is the executive director of the Children’s Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County.