A Cardboard Kid at a playground. Credit: Courtesy / ChildSafe

In Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Gooseberries,” one of his characters says, “…we do not see or hear those who suffer, and what is terrible in life, goes on somewhere behind the scenes.”

This painful and haunting observation is especially true for children enduring terrible abuse behind the scenes. Somewhere in San Antonio right now, a child is being abused or neglected.

Only one out of every 10 of them will ever make an outcry. The others suffer because there are eyes not seeing and ears not hearing.

ChildSafe is Bexar County’s only children’s advocacy center. For 25 years, we have given specialized services to babies, children, and teenagers who have been sexually or physically abused or neglected. Through outreach and education across our community, we have raised awareness of this abuse.

Last year, we provided training for nearly 15,000 people including parents, teachers, and school employees, law enforcement, and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services workers on how to recognize and report child abuse.

In this year’s Cardboard Kids campaign, sponsored by Valero Energy Foundation, we’ve distributed 76,000 of the 2-foot-high cutouts representing the abused children among us. Citizens are asked to display their Cardboard Kid on April 6, take a photo of it, and then share via social media using #cardboardkidsSA on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to build a dialogue about this pressing problem. For more information, click here.

  • Approximately 50 schools are participating in the Cardboard Kids initiative: 18 of them are from Southwest ISD – All of their schools joined, taking a total of 11,600 Cardboard Kids.
  • Judson ISD took 1,150
  • YMCA took 1,000 and distributed them to all their branches
  • Valero took 700
City of San Antonio Head Start program employees participate in the Cardboard Kid program in 2016. Credit: Courtesy / ChildSafe

As awareness of child abuse grows, so does the need for services.

Last year, we served 3, 408 children and their non-offending family members, and our counseling sessions increased 60%. We continue to see a dramatic rise in the demand for all of our services.

The need for ChildSafe’s services continues to expand.

We kicked off a $1 million fundraising campaign as part of April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month. With your help and involvement, we can raise $1 million to serve an additional 2,000 children who are victims of abuse and neglect in Bexar County.

At ChildSafe, we believe that every child seeking our services has been impacted by a traumatic experience. That is why, as an organization, we work from a trauma-informed perspective.

Every employee at ChildSafe, from the CEO down, has a thorough understanding of the profound neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and violence on the child and family.

Every day, we challenge ourselves as an organization to create environments that are child-friendly, safe, and calm. We strive to empower each client with a voice within the services they receive and within the organization.

The trauma inflicted on abused children has generational consequences not only for them, but for society as a whole. Invisible suffering turns into suffering that becomes visible in other ways later on.

Children who are victims of child abuse are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, and 30% more likely to commit a violent crime; 28% are more likely to be arrested as adults; and 25% are more likely to experience teen pregnancy, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, children who are victims of child abuse and neglect can suffer lifelong health consequences in the form of impaired brain development, poor mental and emotional health, cognitive and social difficulties, and are more prone to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung and liver disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

The lifetime cost of child maltreatment and related fatalities in one year totals $124 billion, according to a CDC study.

April is designated Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, but every month and day, ChildSafe as an organization, San Antonio as a community, and each of us as individuals are obligated to become involved, raise awareness, and stop the abuse of the youngest and smallest among us.

We must be the eyes, ears, and mouths for the children whose voices aren’t heard, whose cries are ignored, and whose suffering occurs in anonymity.

To report suspected abuse or neglect, call the state hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or click here.

Only from our speaking, listening, and intervening will healing come for the children of Bexar County.

Please join ChildSafe’s efforts to shift the tide of child abuse and neglect in San Antonio. Visit our website to learn more.

Avatar photo

Kim Abernethy

Kim Abernethy is the president and CEO of ChildSafe.