Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of my resolution recognizing the observance of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
I'd like to thank my colleagues Janice Schakowsky of Illinois, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Joe Courtney of Rhode Island, and Jim McDermott of Washington for their support and for their work on child welfare issues.
Child abuse and neglect is a serious issue that affects thousands of American families. Every 11 seconds a child in the United States is reported as abused or neglected.
Last year 5,800 children were confirmed victims of child abuse in my home county of Tarrant County, Texas. Tragically, nine of those cases ended in death as a result of abuse or neglect.
I think of children like Darlene Diles who spent the first seventeen days of her life in her mother's care before an injury on January 30 left her with severe brain damage.
Darlene's nineteen-year-old mother told doctors that she accidently dropped her daughter on the kitchen floor. But doctors found no skull fracture or swelling consistent with a fall. Instead, they said Darlene's internal head injuries were consistent with being shaken.
The thirty-five-day-old infant died after her father decided to allow doctors to take her off life support.
Seven-month-old David Coronado Jr. was admitted to Children's Medical Center in Dallas with forty-two separate skeletal injuries, damage, to his brain and spinal cord, and numerous skin injuries that included human bite marks. David was recently removed from life support, but his prognosis remains uncertain.
Children like David and Darlene deserve so much better.
Observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month Provides us with the opportunity to highlight their stories, which demonstrate the importance of doing more to prevent child abuse and maltreatment.
Increasing public awareness of how important it is to ensure the safety and welfare of children led to the passage of the first federal child protection legislation--the child abuse prevention and treatment act in 1974.
In the thirty-five years since, advocacy groups across the country have been hard at work to raise awareness regarding child maltreatment.
And social workers and child protective service workers across the country have dedicated countless hours to children who have been abused and neglected.
One such dedicated child protective services employee in Texas is Debbie Pendergrass.
Debbie admits to "fretting virtually nonstop about her charges." She provides the one constant for the children she works with who often get moved around from one foster home to another.
When Debbie visited a toddler born to a thirteen-year-old girl in foster care, Tarrant County foster parents James and Glenda Pell praised her professionalism. The Pells said there have been times during six years and a dozen foster children when they couldn't reach their CPS worker. But with Debbie, they have someone who responds quickly and moves the bureaucratic machinery forward.
In Texas, and in states across this country, child protective service caseworkers face an increasing workload.
In 2007, state and local protective services investigated nearly 5.8 million children who were reported as abused or neglected. The Texas Department of Child Protective Services where Debbie works as a caseworker has improved its caseload, but still needs to hire more caseworkers.
In a recent eighteen-month period, Texas workers who are responsible for visiting abused children saw only seventy-four percent of their children monthly. Federal law requires that at least ninety-five percent be seen monthly. But there are only so many hours in a day.
As the stresses on American families increase in the current economy, we need to work together to ensure that resources are available to provide families with support so that more children do not become victims of maltreatment.
And child protective services across the country need funding so that they can continue the work that they do to protect our most vulnerable children.
Observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month provides us with the opportunity to shine a light on an issue that continues to affect too many children and families.
It also provides us with the opportunity to thank the social workers, teachers, physicians, nurses, and community organizations for their work providing safe places for children. Groups like Prevent Child Abuse Texas, the Alliance for Children in Fort Worth, which is working to "break the cycle of abuse one child at a time." And groups like CASA of Tarrant County, which matches guardian ad litems with children to provide a voice for children in court.
These groups are working to prevent child abuse and neglect throughout Texas and I commend them for their efforts and important work.
The statistics on child abuse and maltreatment are alarming. Child Abuse and maltreatment is a topic few want to discuss, but most of us want to see the cycle of abuse end. By talking about this issue, I hope we can encourage parents to reach out and get the help they need in order to provide a safe and healthy place for their children.
I strongly encourage families and individuals to report abuse or get help by calling the national child abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.