By Cody Thompson

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month and several organizations across the state of Texas and Houston County have joined the national movement to raise awareness.

One such organization is Kalin’s Center, a child advocacy center in Crockett.

“We (Kalin’s Center) believe that ignorance is the worst thing for abused children,” Kalin’s Center financial administrator Ashley Crawford said. “Being blind to the darkness of child abuse keeps the children suffering from abuse trapped in that darkness. When people raise awareness, they are shining a light on those children.”

The Kalin’s Center, along with the Houston County Child Welfare Board, will host a flag-raising ceremony in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month at the Houston County Courthouse at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 10.

“We just finished decorating the flag,” Crawford told the Messenger on Tuesday. “It is decorated with the silhouettes of children on it to represent those being abused.”

After the raising of the flag, the ceremony will conclude with a balloon release.

“Each balloon represents a child in Houston County that has been abused in the past year,” Crawford said.

The Kalin’s Center hosted a similar ceremony for Trinity County in Groveton on Monday, April 3.

“We had a great turnout for the Groveton ceremony,” Crawford said. “There were a lot of people ready to declare awareness.”

Last year, Child Protective Services reported nearly 60,000 children suffered from abuse or neglect, according to a press release from the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas.

“(Child Abuse Prevention Month) is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families,” the press release said.

CHAT offers online resources for parents who feel they might abuse their children, as well as guidelines to help community member recognize the signs of child abuse, the press release said.

“It’s not just parents who need to be vigilant,” CHAT president Stacy Wilson said in the news release. “By following a few simple guidelines, we can all help keep out children safer from potentially abusive situations. That makes for stronger, healthier communities.”

For more information about the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas, visit www.chatexas.com.

The Texas Department of Family and and Protective Services also is stepping up child abuse prevention efforts through its Help for Parents, Hope for Kids campaign.

“We all have a responsibility to protect children,” DFPS commissioner Henry Whitman, Jr. said in a press release.

The Help for Parents, Hope for Kids campaign website offers videos and articles to help parents deal with the stresses of parenthood. The site also connects parents and children to state and local services in their communities.

“Reporting and responding to abuse is important,” Whitman said, “and so is helping parents deal with the many stresses they face.”

For more information on recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect, visit www.dfps.state.tx.us.

For information on the Help for Parents, Hope for Kids campaign, or for parenting classes available in Texas, visit the “Find Help” section at www.helpandhope.org.

Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at cthompson@messenger-news.com.