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Childsafe's Child Abuse Awareness Campaign Kicks Off Citywide With "Cardboard Kids"

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
"Cardboard Kids" will be displayed around town to highlight the problem of child abuse. To help spread the word to get people talking about child abuse, use #CardBoardKidsSA on social media platforms.

Child advocacy group ChildSafe reports that in 2013 Bexar County had 5,846 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect.

ChildSafe CEO Kim Abernethy said the county dropped from the first place position in that category, but knows that number is still too high.

"That's not a statistic that we tout when we tout all of our other great statistics," Abernethy said. "This year we were second in the state, thank goodness, but the last four or five years before that we've been the first in confirmed cases of abuse."

Many people believe one of the problems is that no one really talks about child abuse. So to take an active push in that direction, for the first time ChildSafe enlisted the help of volunteers from across the community.

They made 5,846 cardboard cutouts of child-like figures, which represent each case of confirmed abuse and neglect last year. The "Cardboard Kids" stand two feet tall, but are a gigantic reminder of the dire situation that thousands of children find themselves in.

The Children's Hospital of San Antonio came on board as the sponsor of the freshman local campaign.

"What this is about is children who should be regarded with great honor, love, esteem, be treated as one of our most precious resources," said John Bel, the president of the Children's Hospital of San Antonio foundation. "Instead, [they] suffer violence and harm and hurt, and it's because of situations within the unit that should be closest and best, the family, or it's in the neighborhood. And so the campaign is about awareness, because before you solve a problem you have to be aware of it."

School and church groups, corporations, and volunteers decorated the "Cardboard Kids." Darlene Preston is one of those volunteers who decorated two of the kids because she's had personal experience with child abuse.

"It affects you for your entire life and everything that you do," she said. "So it's important to prevent it, but if it happens, to try to help them heal from it."

Preston said abuse affects kids at all levels and backgrounds.

"It's also important that we understand that the children in these situations, the families, will tend to portray a very wonderful, perfect, external image when it's really not," Preston said. "So you really have to look for the signs."

As part of this first campaign locally, inmates made "Cardboard Kids" that reflected their childhood. Some have band aids and black eyes, while others have no shoes.

To help spread the word to get people talking about child abuse, use #CardBoardKidsSA on social media platforms.

Cardboard Kids SA from Milne Studio on Vimeo.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.