Thursday, April 21, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott Unveils New Tools To Help Professionals Identify Child Abuse

DALLAS – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today unveiled materials to help teachers, school counselors, health care professionals and others who work regularly with children identify and report child abuse. The video and handbook What Can We Do About Child Abuse? discuss the legal requirements for reporting child abuse, include tips on how to talk to children who may have been abused, and provide important information about preventing child abuse.

Abbott made the announcement at Children’s Medical Center Dallas as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is observed in April.

"What Can We Do About Child Abuse?"
(19-minute video)

“No crimes are more destructive to our society than those against our children,” Attorney General Abbott said. “I am committed to partnering with teachers, school counselors and other professionals to report and prevent abuse against our most innocent Texans.”

Each year more than 50,000 Texas children are identified by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as victims of abuse and neglect. Many more cases go unreported or are not reported in a manner that supports effective investigation.

At a news conference to announce the new materials, Attorney General Abbott was joined by Sabrina Kavanaugh. Mrs. Kavanaugh and her husband adopted a little girl after she was discovered in 2001 in a closet in her parents’ Hutchins trailer home. The girl’s mother, Barbara Atkinson, told investigators her daughter had been confined in a closet, attic or small room since 1997. When police found the 8-year-old, she weighed just 25 pounds and could not identify the sun. Atkinson and the girl’s stepfather are now serving life sentences for causing serious bodily injury to a child. Her case has been described as one of the worst cases of child abuse in Texas history.

Mrs. Kavanaugh supports the idea of providing materials to help people detect signs of abuse in children.

“I think that’s a great idea if it could help just one child,” she said. “I wouldn’t want any child to go through what she went through.”

The video and handbook were produced by the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division, which serves child abuse victims by helping cover costs of counseling and medical needs through the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. The Attorney General also provides funding for programs that serve child abuse victims, such as Children’s Advocacy Centers and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). Last year, the Attorney General provided almost $15 million to assist victims of child abuse. More information about the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division is available at the Attorney General’s Web site:
A person wishing to report suspected child abuse or neglect can call any state or local law enforcement agency or Child Protective Services, a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency has a toll-free 24-hour Abuse Hotline: (800) 252-5400. When a child appears to be in immediate danger of serious harm, it is best to call 911 (where that service is available) or the nearest police or sheriff ’s department to ensure the fastest possible response time to protect the child.