Child Abuse And Fatalities Up In Tarrant County TX

.jpg photo of Child Abuse Prevention Month activity
Susan Dunlap makes a hand print of wet paint on a fence during the Shades of Blue program.

Tarrant County dropped to No. 2 in Texas for Child Abuse

FORT WORTH, TX  –  Tarrant County dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 statewide in the number of confirmed child abuse cases from 2014 to 2015, but child and parenting advocates say there is nothing good about the news.

That’s because the number of abuse cases grew to 6,213, from 6,097, and the number of child fatalities increased to 16, from 11, according to a recent report from Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“This is a devastating issue for our community that we simply must talk about,” Mayor Betsy Price told community leaders Monday during a Child Abuse Prevention Month kickoff event held at The Parenting Center in Fort Worth.  “I’m not proud of the statistics on child abuse in our county.”

6,213 confirmed child abuse or neglect cases in Tarrant County in 2015.

Harris County led state with 6,360 confirmed child abuse and neglect cases in 2015, Dallas County was third with 5,847 and Bexar County had 4,941. Statewide, there were 66,721 cases.

In 2014, Tarrant County led Texas in the number of confirmed child abuse cases.

The Parenting Center is putting the spotlight on child abuse prevention in April with the 2016 Shades of Blue campaign.  At Monday’s kickoff, blue pinwheels were dedicated to victims of child abuse and neglect.  Community leaders dipped their hands in blue paint and put their handprints on a playground fence to mark their commitment to this fight.

PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS CAN GET ADVICE ABOUT RAISING CHILDREN FROM NOON TO 3 P.M. MONDAY – FRIDAY BY CALLING 817-332-6399.

“We feel that the various ways in which abuse or neglect might look like mirrors the way that different shades of blue might be,” said Paul Gravley, executive director at The Parenting Center.  “Since blue is the color of Child Abuse Awareness Month we wanted to make sure that we represented that well.”

“We have a lot of work to do in order for that number to go to zero,” Gravley said.

Deaths increase by 45 percent

The 16 deaths attributed to child abuse in Tarrant County is 45 percent increase from 2014, according to the data.  Tarrant County had the third highest number of child abuse/neglect related fatalities in Texas.  Harris County led the state with 25 cases and Dallas County was second with 24 deaths.

Among high-profile fatalities in Tarrant County:

  • Kamron Taylor, 2, of Fort Worth, died from injuries that authorities said were inflicted by his father, 25-year-old Demarcus Trishun Taylor.  He was arrested on a capital murder warrant.
  • Adrian Langlais, 2, or Fort Worth, died after suffering severe head trauma, including multiple skull fractures and bleeding on the brain.  Christian Tyrrell, 22, the toddler’s mother’s boyfriend, was indicted on a capital murder charge in the case.
  • Lamont Bickerstaff, 10 months, of Arlington, died of “battered infant syndrome,” and his mother, Shakira Bickerstaff, 23, was arrested on a capital murder warrant after admitting to police that she shook her infant son, Lamont, and hit his head on a table. She initially told police that Lamont had fallen out of bed.

Parents are suffering from a lot of stress.
Suzanne Stevenson of the Parenting Center

The cases typify some of the local data on child abuse.  For example, 79 percent of confirmed perpetrators are parents and 42 percent are between the ages of 26 and 35.

Price said perpetrators are often “very young adults’ who lack parenting skills.  Stress and frustration can lead to abuse, she said. Parenting education is a critical piece of addressing abuse, Price said.

“They have to stop and think before they make a terrible mistake,” Price said.

.jpg photo ofChild Abuse Prevention Month activity
Carlos, 3, and his brother Reyes Mendoza, 4,and their mother Andrea Rios speaking at Shades of Blue program for Child Abuse Prevention Month

Assistance available to parents

Suzanne Stevenson, family life education program director at The Parenting Center, said child abuse leaves a legacy of “hidden scars.” It often happens in secret and it cuts across demographic lines.

“Parents are suffering from a lot of stress,” she said, adding that The Parenting Center can help parents better handle the situations that can lead to abuse.

Gravley said there are many resources available for parents at The Parenting Center, including a free and confidential parenting advice phone line people can access from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The center has offered classes throughout the county that cover issues that cover birth to college.

“If you have a kid, we have a class tailored specifically to that kid,” he said.

Andrea Rios, 32, went from loving aunt to loving parent of her niece and nephews when her sister passed away from an asthma complication almost three years ago.  She needed help and began attending sessions at the center.  The classes helped her cope with loss and become a stronger parent of little ones.

“It was hard to handle,” said Rios, who cares for children ages, 3, 4 and 5.  “They came for their grief and my grief.”

Help for parents

Parents and caregivers can get advice about raising children from noon to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday by calling 817-332-6399.

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