In commemoration of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, a multidisciplinary team at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital spearheaded a Campus-wide initiative to collect emergency goods and necessities for children in need.
The donation drive, which benefited a nonprofit called BEAR…Be A Resource for CPS Kids, capped a campaign spanning the month of April to help raise awareness about the scourge of child maltreatment and build community-wide engagement for curbing rates of abuse and neglect.
“Our theme this year was ‘Building Community, Building Hope,’ and in that spirit we wanted to do something in conjunction with our longstanding community partners to help support children who have been neglected and abused,” said Susie Distefano, Senior Vice President and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “The outpouring of support was incredible, not just from our own employees and affiliated physicians, but from patients, visitors and even the greater community. We are so grateful for those who gave generously to this wonderful cause.”
In total, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital’s donation drive helped generate more than 1,300 pounds of items for children suddenly placed under the custody of Harris County Child Protective Services. Donations included critically necessary items such as diapers, formula, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and other hygiene products.
“Children often arrive in our care with little more than the clothes on their backs and for years, our CPS workers gave out of their own pockets to get these children the resources they needed,” said Estella Olguin, community relations director for Harris County Protective Services. “Thanks to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and other caring and compassionate organizations throughout our community, we are able to ensure that the needs of these kids are met. These donations send a message to children in terrible circumstances that their wellbeing is important.”
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and UTHealth have long been at the forefront of preventing child abuse and neglect through a variety of educational tools, including the Period of PURPLE Crying® – a nationally accepted program that helps parents understand a normal phase in a baby’s life when they cry more than any other time. After several years of delivering this parent education program to families in the neonatal intensive care unit, the Campus has recently expanded efforts in a research phase to include families of all newborn babies.
In addition, a new state-funded grant has funded a new team of social workers who are responsible for visiting pediatric clinics at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School to identify families at high risk for child maltreatment and offer early interventions.
“Using a specially formulated questionnaire we are able to screen families and then connect them with a social worker who works with them to get them the right care, support and resources they need,” said Dr. Rebecca Girardet, Director of the Division of Child Protection Pediatrics at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School. “Early results have been very promising and we are optimistic that this program will make great strides in helping prevent tragedies before they occur.”
The numbers of abused and neglected children grows every year. Last year alone, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed more than 66,000 cases of child abuse and neglect across the state, including thousands in the Houston area. While maltreatment can strike children at any age, the youngest victims are the most vulnerable, according to the most recent data from the state agency. One in every six children abused and neglected in Texas was an infant. A total of 222 deaths last year were linked in some way to child maltreatment.
“These statistics are incredibly distressing because the consequences for children can be so dire,” Distefano said. “One life lost is one too many. That’s why we remain committed to doing whatever it takes to work to get to the root of these problems, and stop abuse and neglect before it ever occurs.