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Neighborhood advocates working to prevent child abuse

Neighborhood advocates working to prevent child abuse

SAN ANTONIO – Child abuse takes place in every corner of our community, but new numbers show it’s especially prevalent on the city’s west side.

City leaders and Family Service Asssocation are now unveiling a two-year pilot program meant to prevent child abuse. It’s paid for through the city’s budget and will train women who live on the west side to work with at-risk families.

“You guys come from this community,” a teacher told the women in the very first class Monday morning. “This is your neighborhood.”

"This is my life. This is my life. My blood. The west side,” says student Maranda Hernandez.

She’s learning how to be a “promotora,” a regular neighbor who receives specialized training to help prevent child abuse.

"For the simple fact that I did want to help my community, and I know how hard it is to be a single mom,” Hernandez says.

The women in the class will get paid for the 12-week program and also earn a certificate to help them pursue careers in child welfare.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales pushed for the training after seeing the numbers from her own district, particularly in the zip code 78207, one of the most economically distressed parts of the city.

"I felt this was an issue that we really needed to address,” the District 5 councilwoman says. "We know in the '07 zip code, we have the highest incidents of child abuse anywhere in the city. Over 30% of all child abuse cases are coming out of two zip codes in the city: '07 and '28."

She hopes results on the west side could help take the pilot program citywide.

"We know that this particular model, the promotoras program, is the most effective way to deal with issues like this - social issues,” Councilwoman Gonzales says.

Back in the classroom, Hernandez knows child abuse is a problem you don’t often see.

"People hide it very well,” she says.

It’s up to her and her fellow promotoras to recognize the signs, make connections and stop the cycle.

"I would just really like to help and just be a part of that,” Hernandez says.

By EMILY BAUCUM

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