That situation is not unique to our community. In 2012, there were 26,342 children identified as victims of abuse and neglect in Texas. Nationally, nearly 200,000 children fall into that category each year.
Abuse and neglect at a young age have a devastating impact and often result in a pattern of behavior that affects future generations. Breaking the cycle is difficult and requires intervention at an early stage.
[My San Antonio Express News editorial board] applaud[s] local efforts to address the problem by establishing the Early Intervention Program. It will allow families to get professional counseling and also assist them in getting much-needed support from more than two dozen social service agencies before the problems become even more severe.
A grant from the Baptist Health Foundation for $250,000 and another for $50,000 from the Katherine C. Carmody Charitable Trust of the San Antonio Area Foundation — secured by the Hidalgo Foundation — are making the initiative possible. The funding will allow the hiring of a therapist trained in child-parent psychotherapy and two family support monitors. County officials say the program could expand if more funding becomes available.
County officials are working to raise a total of $1.5 million in grants to fund the program for the next five years, according to District Judge Peter Sakai, who supervises the children’s court.
This type of multifaceted approach has a proven track record in Family Drug Court, where it has been in use for more than 10 years. Those who have participated in that program have a 1 percent recidivism rate.
The child’s court program will offer participants support in dealing with mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, and provide assistance in securing housing and employment. There will be parenting classes and a program aimed at getting more women to seek prenatal care.
Participants in the program will have to report to the court twice a month, unlike the current system in which parents on the abuse and neglect docket are only required to appear in court every four months. The ultimate goal is reunification of families while maintaining the safety of the children, Sakai said.
It’s a worthy investment if it results in fewer drug-addicted newborns and a decrease in the number of children needing foster care.