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      Panhandle holds highest rates for child abuse in Texas

      Child abuse has continued to be an issue in the Texas Panhandle. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the Texas Panhandle had some of the highest reported cases of child abuse in the state last year.

      There are about 68,000 children in Randall and Potter County and of those, there have been 1,029 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect.

      "Really the point is not why the numbers are so high, but just one is too many," said CPS Community Initiatives Specialist Darla Ingram with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "So April is child abuse prevention month and we're trying to do some activities to basically raise awareness."

      Ingram said they look at prevention through education and spreading awareness throughout the area.

      The Bridge Executive Director, April Leming said that while child abuse is very much a part of our community, there are definite things that you can do to be a part of the prevention. She said paying attention to your children is key.

      According to the Bridge, some general indicators include:

      -Change in behavior, grades

      -High risk behaviors- drugs, promiscuity, etc.

      -Running away

      -Low self-esteem

      -Suicidal thoughts/attempts

      When people see abuse or suspect it, Ingram said that they want people to speak up about the issue.

      "It is their responsibility by law to report abuse and neglect," said Ingram. "A lot of times we can't depend on someone else to make that report. You've got to do it yourself."

      After a report is filed, an investigation begins to see if there really is abuse or neglect. Investigator Julie Miller said that Child Protective Services main objective is what is in the best interest of the child. She said there are many reasons why abuse and neglect happen within the area.

      "Drugs have been a huge problem in the area for a while," said Investigator Julie Miller. "Or they just cannot financially afford their children at this point. Sometimes they just need that extra help."

      During investigations of child abuse and neglect, Miller said that Child Protective Services tries to work with families and their problems.

      "We try to do our best in keeping the kids with their parents. That's our number one goal," said Miller. "And even if we do take the children out of the home, our number one goal is reunification."

      If you know of a child suffering from abuse or neglect, or even suspect it, you can report it at 800-252-5400.

      For more information on Child Abuse Prevention Month, visit www.childwelfare.gov

      For more information on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, visit http://www.dfps.state.tx.us

      For more information on the Bridge, visit www.bridgecac.org