“I sat for a long time over that child’s body. He was cute as can be with his hair all over, almost like beach hair, and that look that he had always been a playful boy. But play was not in his future, at least not here anyway.”
They’re the words Texas Children’s Hospital Chaplain James Denham spoke before the annual blue ribbon tying ceremony on April 1, which kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month. Denham wrote about just one of the many children who he’s seen affected by child abuse and neglect. This little boy didn’t make it. He represents some 17 children who have died as a direct result of their abuse or neglect over the last year at Texas Children’s. Last year, 1,319 children were identified as being victims of neglect or abuse after being treated at Texas Children’s Hospital. 1,319 blue ribbons and 17 black ribbons were tied on the fence of the children’s playground just outside the Abercrombie Building in remembrance of these children. Blue pinwheels were also placed around the playground, a national symbol for child abuse prevention efforts.
“By tying those blue and black ribbons on a fence that hundreds pass by every day, we dignify each of those children’s lives,” Denham said. “We proclaim that their story matters. The ribbons do not honor a statistic, they honor a child.”
Employees gathered to hear about the dreadful statistics and thank those who work tirelessly to advocate for these children. According to The Texas Association for the Protection of Children, in our state, there is an average of more than two deaths from child abuse or neglect every single week. Each day, 182 children are confirmed victims and more than seven children are maltreated every hour. As the largest children’s hospital in the nation, Texas Children’s advocates for these children. The Child Abuse Prevention team (CAP) works to identify abuse and educates families and the community in an effort to prevent it from happening.
“We are very fortunate at Texas Children’s Hospital to have the CAP team to care for this very delicate patient population,” said Roxanne Vara, director of CAP. “It takes a very special skill set to be faced with the complexities that our CAP team is faced with serving these maltreated children.”
The ribbons will remain on the fence for the month and serve as a constant reminder of the disheartening reality.