Today marks the start of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
UMC Children's Hospital placed "pinwheels for prevention" in the courtyard, to bring awareness to child abuse in Lubbock.
"It starts with today. Letting people know it's happening. It's happening here in Lubbock and we're here to do our part to prevent, to treat, and really to pray that we can end it," CEO Mark Funderburk said.
Dr. Brian Payne, chief medical officer at the children's hospital, says confirmed and hospitalized cases nearly doubled last year.
"So, what we did see is that maybe families weren't seeing the neglect cases, they weren't reporting as much, so the overall reports of child abuse were low, but the overall increase in the more serious cases were up," Payne explained.
Last year, there were seven pediatric deaths at the hospital that came in as trauma patients. Four of those were abused children.
Chad Curry, the training chief for UMC EMS, says you can help by raising awareness and reporting when you see unusual behavior.
"Teachers and staff, even people at the grocery store may recognize something's not totally right or there's a unusual bruise or maybe the child is withdrawn from an emotional standpoint. So, they're able to pick up and the more people we can educate with that the better off everybody is," Curry said.
In Lubbock County last year, there were 3,801 reports of possible abuse and neglect cases, according to the Children's Advocacy Center of the South Plains.
Executive Director Derek Danner says for the first three months of 2021, that number is 1,046.
"I would say the reporting is back of what we've normally seen since the program started in 2015, where we started receiving those statewide intakes and it's all based on professional reporters," Danner added.
Along with passing out blue ribbons, wristbands and wearing blue on Fridays, Danner says the center is starting its "Keeping Kids Safe" initiative.
That includes a free class every Thursday night the rest of this month to teach residents how to help children who might be victims of abuse and trauma.
"You know we have to get parents into classes. We have to give young parents some coping skills when they deal with children and all that comes from education," Danner said.
Danner says the classes aren't just for parents, caretakers or those who work with children, but for anyone who wants to learn.
Find the schedule and contact information for the events here: https://www.safeplace4kids.org/calendar.php