Abilene ranks highest in Child Abuse
– neglect rate
Abilene, TX – A 5-year-old boy brought to the Abilene/Taylor County Child Advocacy Center said he was angry at the police.
Angry at the police for taking away his parents.
When asked why the police did that, the boy responded that the police found ice — methamphetamine — in his home.
The forensic interviewer asked the boy where they found the ice.
In his sock drawer, he said.
It’s a case Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls cannot forget.
As a board member of the Child Advocacy Center, where children who are victims of crime are interviewed, Bolls hears the occasional Child Protective Services case, but this one made him wonder: “How does a 5-year-old child in this community know about ice?”
How could a parent produce drugs and leave them in a child’s drawer?
“There are things that make you go ‘I wish I didn’t know that,'” Bolls said.
But there are many more cases like that 5-year-old boy’s in Taylor County and the surrounding Big Country.
In this area, there have been “too many cries,” Police Chief Stan Standridge said.
For the past five years the Abilene region has reported the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in Texas, doubling the state average most of those years.
Officials who respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect in Taylor County — one of 30 counties in the region — say the rate is a result of a high degree of people reporting possible abuse and close collaboration among agencies and community partners.
But the numbers are still stark in comparison.
In fiscal year 2015, the Abilene-Wichita Falls region had 21 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children, according to the most recent Department of Family and Protective Services statistics. That amounts to 2,763 confirmed victims.
The next-highest rate came from the Tyler region, which had 14.7 confirmed cases per 1,000 children, nearly 50 percent lower than Abilene’s rate.
The state average rate for 2015 was 9.1 confirmed cases per 1,000 children. That means 66,721 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect across Texas.
An expert on child abuse said the high rate could be caused by a number of factors — ranging from a statistical anomaly to heightened public awareness of the issue, from a heavier-handed approach to child abuse in the area to just more abuse.
Others claim the rate is a direct effect of the immense use of methamphetamine and other drugs among adults.
In all likelihood, there is no one reason or solution.