No child deserves to die from abuse or neglect, but one Bell County child — Kaiden Maliek Woods, 8 months old, of Killeen — died in 2013 of malnutrition, according to a Child Protective Services fatality report.
Kaiden was one of 1,100 victims of abuse or neglect confirmed in Bell County last year, when more than 470 children were taken from their homes, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services news release said.
More than 160,000 allegations of child abuse or neglect were reported in Texas in 2013, according to statistics provided by Family and Protective Services.
Kaiden was not responding in his home and his mother futilely tried to resuscitate him. He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead, according to a report.
The infant’s parents were confirmed to have medically neglected him. He died of malnutrition after only gaining 1.53 pounds over a six-month period. No one took him for medical care or to follow-up medical appoints, according to the report. The mother also medically neglected the infant’s half-sibling, who had sickle cell anemia. He was never taken to a hematologist as recommended, which put him at risk of a significant injury. That child was removed from the care of the parents.
In Texas, 156 children died because of their parents or caregivers. Another 66,398 were victims of abuse or neglect, and more than 17,022 children were taken from their homes to protect them, the Protective Services report stated.
On the positive side, 22,164 families were served by Protective Services prevention programs and 44,828 children were helped.
“While stopping abuse after it happens is critical, it’s not enough. We need to stop it before it starts,” said Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia. “Many of the parents CPS works with are young, some are poor and almost all of them are under stress and need some kind of help. Helping parents is one of the keys to preventing child abuse.”
In the case of suspected physical abuse, Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Julie Moore said she looks for unexplained bruising, burns or frequent broken bones. If the child can talk, she asks if the child feels safe at home or if anyone has hurt them. She said if the child seems afraid of adults, is withdrawn or sad, something “may not be quite right.”
If neglect is suspected, investigators go to the home and see if it’s clean or dirty, or even not safe for children.
“Do they have utilities on or have they been turned off? Are the parents suspected of using drugs?” are some questions investigators keep in mind, and CPS may ask the parents to submit to a drug test.
And if sexual abuse is reported, it can be very difficult to determine, especially in young children who might not understand what is happening.
“But if children are acting out sexually and it isn’t age-appropriate, that could be a sign. Questions like ‘Does anyone ever make you feel uncomfortable or hurt you?’ and ‘What games do you like to play and what games don’t you like?’ are good to ask,” Moore added.
“It is up to everyone in the community to report abuse and neglect of children because many times children who are abused don’t have a voice,” Moore said.
Learn the signs of child abuse and report any concerns to the Texas Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-252-5400 or online at TxAbuseHotline.org.