Senator urges funding to be restored to prevent child abuse
By Eva Ruth Moravec - San Antonio Express-News
The epidemic of child abuse and neglect in Bexar County is embarrassing and appalling, and state funding must be restored to properly prevent it, public officials said during a news conference Wednesday.
"We need to come together and protect these children," Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, told about 50 people gathered at The Children's Shelter. "These places don't work for free."
According to Uresti, legislators in the last session slashed the budget for abuse and neglect prevention by one-third, and funding for prevention programs now makes up 12 percent of the state's Department of Family and Protective Services budget.
Dr. Shalon Neinow of Christus Santa Rosa's Center for Miracles, an outpatient assessment center for abuse and neglect cases, said the number of cases the center has been asked to investigate has already increased 10 percent this year compared with last year.
The severity of this year's cases has also increased, Neinow said, thanks to stressors such as the economy and domestic violence, combined with decreased resources for prevention. About 30 percent of child abuse victims will in turn abuse their own offspring, Neinow said.
"If you feel angry or frustrated, walk away, take a time out," she said. "Crying doesn't kill children — violence does."
Attendees on Wednesday were urged to report suspected child abuse and neglect cases to authorities, which is something Suzy Bianchi-Peters said she ingrained in her daughter Rebecca "Veggie" Gonzales and granddaughter Samvastion "Sammy" Ochoa.
Brothers Conrad and Baron Ochoa, Sammy's father and uncle, respectively, were arrested in October on allegations of sex crimes against 10-year-old Sammy and another young girl. Baron Ochoa remains jailed on two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, and Conrad Ochoa is being held on a charge of possession and promotion of child pornography.
They were also identified in arrest warrant affidavits as suspects in the September deaths of Sammy, Gonzales and Gonzales' friend Pamela Wenske, 41. Neither has been charged in connection with the deaths.
Bianchi-Peters said her granddaughter talked to her about the abuse, and her outcry is what ultimately led to the Ochoa brothers' arrests.
Since her relatives' deaths, Bianchi-Peters has become involved in an organization called radKIDS, a nonprofit that teaches prevention skills to children up to fifth grade. Currently, the program is strong in Laredo, she said, and some local school districts have shown interest.
"We require immunizations for children to be in school," she said, "but why are they not required to have the children inoculated against a deadly virus — the virus of child abuse?"