CPS recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month with march down Main Street

CPS recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month with march down Main Street
CPS recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month with march down Main Street

Child Protective Services (CPS) staff and other child advocates gathered for a press conference Friday, April 7, at the fire museum pavilion in downtown Beaumont.

“CPS completed 166,753 investigations that confirmed 58,664 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Texas last year,” Shari Pulliam, Beaumont’s CPS spokesperson, said in a release, calling child abuse “a big problem” in Texas.

“More than 200 children in Texas died due to abuse or neglect last year,” she said.

Mayor Becky Ames began the event by declaring April to be Child Abuse Prevention Month. Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham and Judge Larry Thorne were among the speakers, and the King Middle School Choir sang several songs.

Wortham said, “Child abuse is one of the biggest problems we have in our county.” He said he became so concerned that his office started a special unit to address the issue.

Wortham referred to a sentence handed down in a sexual assault case just the day before, in which David Anthony Humphries was found guilty by a jury for molesting two young children in the Port Arthur Academy Sports and Outdoors store on Feb. 26, 2016.

Humphries exposed himself to a store employee and masturbated in front of her, then molested a 9-year-old girl in the shoe department when her father’s back was turned before doing the same thing to a 5-year-old girl in the baseball department, according to a release from the district attorney’s office.

Both children immediately told their parents what happened, who confronted Humphries and “physically prevented him from leaving [the store],” the release stated.

The jury decided April 6 that Humphries should serve 35 years of confinement and pay a $10,000 fine. Humphries was formally sentenced by Judge John B. Stevens, Jr.

Wortham called Humphries’ actions “totally appalling” during his address.

“It’s just wrong,” he said.

Wortham also called on legislators to do more about these issues.

“They’re more concerned with passing legislation about bathrooms than they are with helping our children have a safer life,” he said.

Wortham said he believes CPS caseworkers are underpaid and deserving of more respect.

Judge Thorne praised foster families, referencing the old saying that “raising a teenager is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.”

Thorne talked about how it is difficult enough to raise your own child, much less face the struggle of raising someone else’s child.

Jefferson County Precinct 2 Commissioner Brent Weaver also spoke well of CPS caseworkers.

“What a wonderful job y’all do, a thankless job at times,” he said. “Every child deserves a good life.”

Over 2,000 investigations are currently open in Jefferson County alone, Weaver said.

“Out there right now, a child is being abused,” he added.

Rachel Guidry, director of counseling services at Beaumont ISD, said the school district has “zero tolerance for child abuse.”

“Any and all allegations will be reported to the local authorities immediately,” she said.

Bel Morian, executive director of CASA Southeast Texas, recommended that audience members record the child abuse hotline number in their phone so that “you can report any time you see anything that doesn’t look right.”

The event ended with a march down Main Street to the Beaumont Police Department and back to the pavilion.

Participants held posters made by Port Neches middle school students with messages like “love every child” and “violence is not love” while chanting “there is no excuse for child abuse!”

Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect should contact the Texas Abuse Hotline at (800) 252-5400 or report online at TexasAbuseHotline.org.