Preventing child abuse throughout the year
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Pictured: As Bandera County Judge Richard Evans proclaimed April Child Abuse Prevention Month in the county, he was surrounded by county staff and elected officials that included, in no particular order, Stacy Teston, Roy and Debra Dugosh, DARE Deputy Marti Watts, Alma Lovett, Bridget Wahler, Terry Wheeler, Doyle Haner, County Treasurer Billie Reeves, Emergency Management Coordinator Carey Reed, Debbie Rasberry, Laurie Haynes, Patty Stovall, Tandie Mansfield, Ashley Bents, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson, Sheriff Dan Butts and County Clerk Candy Wheeler.
Almost singlehandedly, County Treasurer Billie Reeves has taken up the cause to proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Bandera County.
On Thursday, March 27, she spoke before commissioners court, revealing that during the past year, 68 children were removed from their homes in Bandera County. "This is a subject near and dear to my heart," Reeves said. "Child abuse and neglect continues to be a problem, not only in Bandera County, but throughout Texas and the United States."
Because of this unacceptable number of local children affected, Reeves is also using the month-long effort to reconstitute the county's child welfare board under the auspices of the Bandera County Youth Services.
"We want to raise awareness of this growing problem in the county," she said in an interview on Tuesday, April 1. "If any county residents are interested in serving as volunteers on the Bandera County Child Welfare board, they should call me at 830-796-4197," Reeves said.
She added that the board would not be required to do fundraising and would not use taxpayers' dollars. "The board is funded by jurors' donations. The money we have accumulated so far has been deposited in the special trust."
According to Reeves, as a vital part of the community, children deserve to have "safe, stable, nurturing and healthy homes" that foster their wellbeing. "Unfortunately, often this is not the case," she said.
At 8 am, April 1, on the steps of the Bandera County Courthouse, Judge Richard Evans proclaimed April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, calling on citizens, elected officials, community agencies, faith-based groups, medical facilities and businesses to increase efforts to support families. "By preventing child abuse, we will strengthen our community," he said.
Evans was surrounded by county employees and elected officials. After reading the proclamation, he joined others to place 68 blue and silver pinwheels - one for each Bandera County child who was removed from his family last year because of abuse or neglect - across the front of the courthouse lawn. Reeves selected pinwheels because to her the small toys have come to symbolize what should be a carefree childhood.
Throughout April, the pinwheels will serve as small sentinels and reminders that many of the county's most vulnerable residents are even now experiencing fear, hunger and squalor. For them, there will be no carefree childhoods until giant steps are taken to prevent child abuse.