Her name means butterfly in the Native American language of the Blackfoot tribe.
Like a caterpillar emerging from her cocoon, Aponi Tapia changed her name, her life and has tried very hard to never look back.
Aponi, formerly known as Aaron, faced insurmountable odds in getting adopted. She was 14 when she went into foster care because of an abusive situation in the home of her grandparents.
“I got lucky in my first foster home. They wanted to keep me so I did not have to keep bouncing around,” the Copperas Cove High School senior said.
When asked what events led up to the adoption, Aponi Tapia hesitated, looked down at her hands and then without hesitation said, “Grandpa did some bad things ….” with her voice trailing off.
Aponi’s adopted mother, Regina Tapia, said Aponi demonstrated more courage than most people could muster.
“She faced her grandfather in court and he was prosecuted and went to prison. But you can understand how conflicted she was when she had to testify,” Regina Tapia said. “Her grandpa was taking care of her grandmother. She had to let all that go and realize her grandmother would be OK and he had to pay for what he had done.”
Aponi Tapia is one of hundreds of children in Coryell County who experienced child abuse and neglect, said Julie Moody of the Department of Family and Protective Services.
“If people suspect that there is abuse or neglect going on, it probably is. People need to trust their ‘gut instinct’ and report it. Don’t think someone else will,” Moody said. “It’s up to all of us to report suspected abuse so Child Protective Services can try and help the family. If CPS doesn’t know about a family, we can’t help them.”
Obvious signs of abuse are unexplained bruises, broken bones or burns. But often, abuse and neglect aren’t that obvious as was the case with Aponi Tapia.
Those reporting suspected cases of abuse should be prepared to answer several questions including where the child lives, who the child lives with, parents’ names and other information to assist the direction the investigator will go in determining whether or not the allegations can be substantiated.
“The reporter will remain anonymous and the people who they are reporting on will never know who made the call. So there shouldn’t be any fear in retaliation if you report suspected child abuse,” Moody said.
“Giving your name and number to the statewide intake operator can assist the investigator. Giving your information will keep you informed as to how CPS handled the case. But again, the information of the reporter will remain confidential.”
For Aponi Tapia, she will graduate in June and is ready to go out into the world on her own.
“My name, Aaron, was a boy’s name. So I changed my name. It was time to let go of the past and move into the future,” she said.
To report child abuse call at 800-252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org/Login/Default.aspx.
Contact Wendy Sledd at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476