By CHRIS AGEE & LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO COUNTY – Two upcoming events are designed to illustrate the number of local children currently in the child protection system.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, which is commonly represented with the color blue, and local agencies are using the color to draw local attention to a widespread concern.
A fundraising event for the Palo Pinto County Child Welfare Board (formerly known as the CPS Board) will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Steve Perdue Training Center, just south of city hall.
This "Go Blue Day" event will include a barbecue lunch – for a donation – and silent auction. Door prizes will also be distributed during the lunch.
Proceeds from Thursday's lunch will benefit the Child Welfare Board and its efforts. The board will give out blue bracelets for each person who makes a donation.
The board also wants citizens to know that Chili's Restaurant will donate to the Child Welfare Board a portion of its proceeds from Tuesdays in April for any diners who show a "Go Blue For Kids" flier, available at the lunch. For more information, call (940) 328-2220 or (940) 445-0797.
CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties is getting a jump on the monthlong celebration with an exhibit in Weatherford, Saturday, and will host a similar presentation later in the month at the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce.
The local exhibit will take place April 19, noon to 5 p.m., and will include one pinwheel displayed on the chamber's lawn for each Palo Pinto County child in CPS care.
In this county, that number is 104, and CASA Executive Director Barbara Tucker said the exhibit is meant to emphasize the importance of reaching the young victims and working toward preventing future abuse.
"Half the children in the child protection system in Texas do not have CASA volunteers to advocate for them," she said. "Many fall through the cracks of an overburdened system, but the half who do have a CASA volunteer are more likely to grow up to be healthy, productive citizens."
Other area agencies and organizations will take part in the awareness campaign with blue ribbons and adornments across the community.
Typically, the Palo Pinto County Child Welfare Board has an annual balloon release, but a shortage of helium has curtailed this year's release. They would have had 176 blue balloons, representing abused children in the county in 2012, and one black balloon for a child that died at the hands of abuse. Instead, they will give out large blue ribbons for citizens to tie on flagpoles, fences and any visible locations around the county.
CPS Board Treasurer and Rainbow Room Coordinator Cheryl Berry researched the rise in child abuse cases in Palo Pinto County over the past decade. Based on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the county had the following confirmed victims of child abuse and/or neglect:
• 2002 – 62 cases.
• 2003 – 79 cases.
• 2004 – 94 cases.
• 2005 – 75 cases.
• 2006 – 95 cases.
• 2007 – 94 cases.
• 2008 – 100 cases.
• 2009 – 158 cases.
• 2010 – 160 cases.
• 2011 – 114 cases.
• 2012 – 176 cases.
Berry said that what stands out to her is that since 2008, the number of child victims of abuse and/or neglect has not been below 100.