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Numbers shows fewer child abuse victims, but investigations up

Fox San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO -- New data into our newsroom shows child abuse in Bexar County is on the decline; however, it's not as simple as just looking at the numbers.

According to the data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the number of confirmed child abuse and neglect victims has gone down over the last several years, but the number of cases assigned for investigation has not.

If you look at the data from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016, the number of confirmed victims has decreased.

In 2012, there were more than 6,000 victims.

In 2016, that number fell to just under 4,500.

However, there were more than 14,000 cases assigned for investigation in 2012.

Whereas in 2016, there were more than 15,000.

The United Way of San Antonio has been looking at these numbers and experts there say they still see the need and concern in the community through their 2-1-1 help line.

"For a few years the resources at Child Protective Services were strained and they couldn't get to the same level of investigations,” said Mary Ellen Burns with the United Way. “So at first glance, yes, it looks like it's going down, but when you look deeper the reality is more in line with our perceptions on child abuse and that it's not changing."

Last year, Governor Greg Abbott described Child Protective Services as a "broken system."

The Dallas Morning News reported that in December, Texas lawmakers approved $142.4 million for the agency to hire nearly 830 employees and increase salary after the agency failed to see at-risk children quickly.

Since then, DFPS shows caseworkers are investigating reports called in to the agency faster.

In the first week of January, 78% of children in the most high-risk situations were seen within 24 hours of being reported to the state child-abuse hotline. That number increased to 92% between March 19 and March 25.

There was also a sharp drop in the number of caseworkers leaving the agency in January compared to those who quit in December.

The state is also partnering with agencies like the United Way to come up with solutions on how to truly bring these numbers down.

Recently, they have been looking at solutions specific to the needs here in San Antonio and are working on how to bridge care between services so families don't have to make call after call to try and find help.

If you need help with utilities, or think a child may be being abused or neglected, you can call the United Way helpline at 2-1-1.

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