Senator Carlos Uresti took on the fight to help prevent and stop child abuse in 2003 following the horrific death of four year old Jovonie Ochoa by his grandmother. Senator Uresti and advocates in the community knew they needed to do better by our children and therefore, in 2005, unified under the Blue Ribbon Task force (BRTF).
For the past twelve years, Senator Uresti and the partners of the BRTF have worked diligently to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect. Through outreach and collective messaging on when and how to report child abuse, calls to 211 and reports to the Department of Family and Protective Services have increased, and more families have been connected to much needed services. The community has become more comfortable discussing a difficult subject along with assisting others on where to report suspected child abuse (1-800-252-5400).
However, we continue to experience high rates of child deaths in Texas. In 2016, we lost 222 children due to abuse and neglect statewide, and in Bexar County, we lost 11 children. Child Abuse is preventable and these numbers are simply unacceptable. These rates have caused the BRTF to take a closer look at the dynamics that lead up to a child becoming a victim of abuse or neglect, and on what can be done to get ahead of it.
Through many months of outreach with the community, open forums with BRTF partners, and a review of Bexar County's child deaths, the BRTF found that if parents who are often isolated and struggling with finances, domestic violence, and minimal emotional support have a trusted individual from their own community to turn to as a mentor in a time of need, our community may be able to prevent a child from becoming the target of these stresses.
The BRTF is working to bridge gaps and build partnerships with stakeholders who historically have not been involved in these efforts such as apartment complex managers, Chambers of Commerce, the San Antonio Housing Authority, Faith based organizations and members, and Universities. The common thread between these entities is their work within the same community, with the same families. These entities are uniquely positioned to play an important role in promoting a mentoring initiative for young parents.
Connecting young parents with mentors from their own community who have experience and are able to earn their trust shows real promise. The BRTF and community partners will continue to develop the program in the months ahead. For additional information on how to get involved in this new initiative, please contact Senator Uresti’s San Antonio District Office at (210) 932-2568.