Child abuse is happening in every state throughout our country. All you have to do is turn on your TV and you’ll probably see another news report on the latest child abuse case, once again making headlines. It’s extremely disturbing to hear the horrors of child abuse happening in our country and in our own neighborhoods. And when it hits home, it should become a community’s top priority to find ways of putting a stop to it. That’s why Family Service is working closely with San Antonio City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales of District 5, where the numbers of child abuse reported cases is especially prevalent, and is also one of the most economically distressed parts of the city.
The statistics are staggering. In 2017, San Antonio had the third highest rate of reported child abuse cases in Texas. A total of 5,588 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect were reported in San Antonio. Of those 5,588, over 30% were in the city’s West side, specifically within the 78207 and 78228 zip code areas, according to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services.
Because of Councilwoman Gonzales’s concern over the alarming numbers of child abuse cases in the city’s Westside, she began to work on confronting the problem head on. Councilwoman Gonzales received the support from City Council members to develop a unique pilot program that will help reduce the number of child abuse incidences in her district. Councilwoman Gonzales, along with Family Service Association, has developed the Promotoras Child Abuse Prevention Program. The pilot uses a peer-to-peer mentor model, allowing trained community members known as Promotoras, also parents in the same targeted zip code areas, to provide valuable in-home healthcare education to at-risk families. The goal is to increase parental and child nurturing skills to ensure the health and safety of children, and ultimately to strengthen and empower families.
We also hope to help families improve their financial outcomes through job training and education. The program will utilize multiple approaches that have proven to be successful in improving the well-being, financial, and medical conditions of low-income children.
In November 2017, Family Service Association reached out to the Westside community by inviting residents in the 78207 zip code area to attend Community Health Worker classes, held at the Westside Education Training Center. The grant, initiated by Councilwoman Gonzales, allowed for ten residents in the 78207 zip code area, to participate in the Promotoras Program. Since then, the ten participants have completed their required certification hours, and have recently walked across the stage to receive their hard earned diplomas.
In addition, Family Service Association offered a Nurturing Training Curriculum, also completed by the Promotoras. The organization was able to hire four of the ten Promotoras, who will soon be working closely with targeted at-risk populations. The other six have also been employed by area organizations. And because the Promotoras live in the same zip code area, and for some, have experienced domestic violence or similar situations themselves, families will be more comfortable sharing their life challenges with them.
The program has given the Promotoras a unique opportunity to help their own community. Some of them are young mothers themselves and understand how stressful it can be to raise a child with little resources. The Promotoras will serve as a valuable resource to young families. Ultimately, it’s about neighbors helping neighbors, in an effort to reduce child abuse in our community. And, we must start with one neighborhood at a time.
Family Service Association hopes to see improved home environments within the next two years of the pilot. Program partners include the University of Texas at San Antonio to evaluate the success of the program over a two year period, and the Westside Education Training Center to train and certify the community Promotoras.
To learn more about the Promotoras Pilot Program, please call 210-431-7566. If you find yourself struggling with family issues and need to talk to a counselor, please call Family Service at 210-299-2400.
If you suspect child abuse or need to report child abuse, please call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
Mary E. Garr, For the Express-News: Promotoras — a pilot program to help end child abus