More than 500 pairs of children’s shoes were wrapped around the Saint Louis Early Education Center on Friday, a reminder of the 506 cases of child abuse or neglect in Smith County last year.
“In my 45 years in law enforcement, I always tell my officers not to take cases personally,” Chief Deputy Fred Little, with the Smith County Sherriff’s Office, said. “But on the occasion that I investigate crimes involving child abuse, it’s hard not to. … We recognize that the greatest asset is our children.”
Little and others who work with children gathered for the Smith County Child Abuse Awareness Proclamation Day at Saint Louis Early Education Center, organized by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and Tyler Independent School District.
Speakers encouraged all residents to report any suspicion of child abuse.
“Many people fear that reporting will break up a family,” Stacy Miles, with Tyler ISD Head Start, said. “The truth is it will protect the child from further harm.”
A proclamation also was read at the event declaring April child abuse prevention month by the city of Tyler.
Representatives of the Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that helps child victims of sexual assault navigate the recovery and legal process, also were present at the event.
Every day at the Children’s Advocacy Center, we have to remember that these children aren’t just statistics,” Brenda Sanchez, staff member at the organization, said. “They’re gorgeous little people.”