SAN ANTONIO - In 19 years of representing children in court, Arabia Vargas has heard and seen horrible evidence of child abuse in Bexar County.
"Sex abuse, sex abuse of a little babies, little children," explained Vargas. "Isn't that repulsive?
According to Vargas, the problem is getting worse with San Antonio in the top ten of a troublesome group of cities with a high rate of child abuse.
Annette Rodriguez, head of the Children’s Shelter, said her records show 6,000 confirmed cases of abuse in 2011. Rodriguez said in the past ten years, the number of cases has doubled and she believes there is a need for more foster parents.
“We want to safeguard children from abuse. We want to prevent abuse. If abuse happens, we want to provide a safe haven either in our emergency shelter, in our foster homes or residential treatment centers,” she said.
Yesterday, the Children’s Shelter hosted an event bringing state lawmakers together with community leaders to discuss funding for the shelter and its many programs to help families.
Senator Carlos Uresti attended the meeting. Years ago he established a Blue Ribbon Task Force to reform the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services to provide more help for victims and families.
Vargas joined the advisory board of that task force which was formed after the death of four year old Jovonie Ochoa. Christmas 2003, investigators said the boy died from starvation and had been signs of physical abuse.
Vargas doesn’t believe the issue of child abuse will improve in Bexar County unless the state legislature is willing to spend more money on prevention. The attorney said the problem stems from a high rate of poverty, teenage pregnancy and drugs.
Vargas insisted media attention could also help.
"What you're doing right now, doing a piece on this, is tremendous," she said.
And, she thinks it’s critical.
"When you see the eyes of a child that been abused, that's what keeps me motivated."