Child abuse numbers up in the Texas Panhandle

AMARILLO, TEXAS — Amarillo College held their annual Child Abuse Prevention Conference at the Amarillo Civic Center.

Following a ten year trend where reported cases of confirmed child abuse in the Texas Panhandle held steady, the numbers of cases increased between 8.5 percent and 9 percent according to the Texas Department State Health Services.

“When we se this spike this is very alarming,” said Janice James, Child Abuse Prevention Specialist.

Like so many people who work in the respective field of child abuse prevention and neglect, Janice James is concerned following the announcement that confirmed cases of child abuse rose significantly in 2014 in the Texas Panhandle.

“We’ve got a lot of people as in the Health Department looking into that,” said James. “They can help us determine what we need to additionally.”

To help reduce the numbers, child abuse prevention advocates say it takes a combination of intervention and education and that to often the problem is passed down from one generation to the next.

“You have to break that cycle,” said Wendy Branstine, Region 16 Education Services Center. “It takes education and also unfortunately it also takes law enforcement because it goes to far just education is not enough.”

One of the reasons why cases of child abuse are not reported is due to victims being afraid or having a negative view towards law enforcement.

Sgt. Wade Pennington with Amarillo Police Department says they “encourage current or former victims to come forward and to not be afraid.”

“We generally tell the kids to get out and talk to someone who we can trust,” said Pennington. “Maybe a bus driver or the principal or coach or a teacher whoever that is we want them to talk to those people so that we can get the information from them.”

Once law enforcement gets the information they need they can begin an investigation.