Abilene ranks highest in Child Abuse –
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Small population distorts rate
The Department of Family and Protective Services, the state agency tasked with protecting the health and safety of children and adults, divides the state into 11 geographic regions. Child Protective Services is one of five programs under the DFPS umbrella.
The headquarters of Region 2 is in Abilene, with the region extending north to Wichita County, south to Brown County, west to Scurry County and east to Eastland County. It has the smallest child population, through age 17, of all 11 regions — 131,651 in 2015.
The most populous region is Region 3, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, with a child population of almost 2 million. Its 2015 rate of child abuse and neglect was 9.4 cases per 1,000 children, or 18,571 confirmed victims.
The only years in the past eight that Region 2 has not had the highest rate were 2009 and 2010, according to DFPS statistics. The region surpassed the other 10 regions in the state from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2011 to 2015.
From 2007 to 2015, the Abilene region had the highest reporting rate of any of the regions, according to DFPS statistics, even if it did not have the highest rate of child abuse and neglect. The reporting rate represents the number of claims made that have not yet been investigated.
Chris Greeley, chief of Public Health Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, said there could be various reasons for Region 2’s high rate.
Because of its small child population, any increase in the number of child abuse or neglect cases in Region 2 would result in a bigger climb in the rate than in Region 3, for example, because it is about 10 times the size of Region 2, Greeley said.
“Any changes are much more apparent statistically,” said Greeley, who holds a master’s degree in clinical research. “Part of it looks really disproportionate because the denominator is so small compared to all the other regions.”
The region next closest in size to Abilene’s is Region 9, whose headquarters is in Midland. Region 9 includes 30 counties with a child population of 159,694 in 2015, yet its rate of child abuse and neglect for that year did not come close to Region 2’s — 11.2 confirmed cases per 1,000 children. That is 1,789 children, almost 1,000 fewer victims than in the Abilene-Wichita Falls region.