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Child abuse is a harrowing reality everywhere, and in Lubbock, numbers were described as alarming. According to Covenant Children’s Hospital (Lubbock), the Lubbock region is ranked second highest in the state for reported child abuse cases.

With Child Abuse Prevention Month around the corner, talked with Kaci Thompson, Pediatric Trauma Coordinator at Covenant Children’s.

In a press release, Covenant said there were 734 confirmed cases of child abuse in Lubbock County, two of which were fatal, in 2022. This is down from 2021, where the county saw 970 cases – 4 fatal.

According to the Lubbock Police Department, 340 cases child abuse were reported in 2022.

The way child abuse cases are reported has changed, which could explain the seemingly decreased number of cases, according to Thompson.

Changes in laws and definitions have caused a recent shift in child removal from homes. For instance, parents testing positive for marijuana are no longer subject to removal unless it causes significant impairment of a child’s health. Similarly, the definition of ‘substantial risk’ has been updated to ‘immediate danger,’ Thompson explained.

Thompson also said that while Lubbock may seem like just another small community, this abuse continues to occur right here, locally, “and it’s concerning,” she said.

Most Common Forms of Child Abuse

“The abuse cases that Covenant sees most often are physical abuse and neglect,” Thompson said. “Physical abuse is easier to determine, but neglect is harder to diagnose. For example, in cases where a child is malnourished, it is really hard to tell families that they are neglecting their kids.”

Risk factors/Demographics

Typically, younger children are at higher risk of child abuse, according to Thompson. Kids 0 to 3 years of age were 50% of cases seen in Texas in 2022, while kids ages 4 to 5 were 11%. By comparison, kids 0 to 3 years of age were 39% of cases seen in Lubbock County in 2022, while kids aged 4 to 5 were 11%.

One risk factor Thompson highlighted was that children with chronic illnesses were also at higher risk – possibly due to them having different needs than other children.

Hispanics were at highest risk and Anglo/White children were second. Females were at 52%, and males were at 48%.

How you can help

When it comes to the long-term effects of child abuse, Thompson explained that it can vary depending on the type of abuse, with physical and mental/cognitive abuse being just a few examples.

She stressed that prevention has been medically-proven to be the best way to stop child abuse. “We have to stop worrying about diagnosing and focus on prevention,” said Thompson.

According to Thompson, it is wise to educate yourself, whether you have children or not, on child abuse prevention and resources so you can help make a difference in these critical situations.

“First thing to do is listen, people are too quick to judge or pass it off as nothing,” Thompson said. “Listening is the key.”

Finding out what resources are available and offering those is a great starting place.

Covenant will host multiple events that will raise awareness during Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month as well as offer such resources, Thompson said.

The hospital also encourages the community to wear blue in the month of April, snap a photo and post to social media with the hashtag #CovWearsBlue.

“We need to speak up and be a voice for our children,” Thompson concluded.