CPS training kicks off Child Abuse Prevention Month

CPS investigators discuss their training at The Henderson County Help Center Thursday morning. (Michael V. Hannigan photo)

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

I watched the scary man lean back in his chair and tap the pistol on a table littered with poker chips, beer cans, whiskey bottles and what looked like might be narcotics. Even the best poker chips on the table were smeared with what appeared to be chocolate.

His scowl was intimidating.

Two bigger, more frightening, men argued with a pair of women I couldn’t see around a corner. The women had shown up unexpectedly and started asking questions about children.

When The Scowl stood up with his gun, picked up a baggie of pills and disappeared into a back room, I got really nervous.

But this was training and the bad guys were just playing roles — albeit playing their parts very well — all in the name of safeguarding children and those sworn to protect them.

Welcome to the world of a CPS investigator.

Thursday at the Henderson County Help Center in Athens, Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigators from across a 12-county region went through training with agents from the Department of Public Safety, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Athens Police Department.

The goal was safety.

“You can’t keep the kids safe if you can’t keep yourself safe,” said one CPS leader.

The exercise also works to strengthen the bonds between CPS and law enforcement, said another.

“It is a coordinated effort,” she said. “While they are teaching us, we are teaching them.”

The training session was one of many as the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) gears up for April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In a press release, the DFPS said that CPS completed 174,740 investigations last year in Texas and confirmed that 63,657 children were victims of abuse or neglect. That’s an 8.5 percent increase in the number of victims compared to the prior year.

“We must all get involved to make children safer – whether it’s a teacher or a neighbor that reports suspected abuse or a church or charitable organization that helps parents and families,” said Henry “Hank” Whitman, Jr., commissioner of the DFPS.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, contact the Texas Abuse Hotline at 800-252-5400 or report online at TxAbuseHotline.org.

Parents can find a wealth of helpful information on the website, including a number of fun but educational videos, articles by experts and other tips designed to help parents deal with some of the most challenging aspects of parenting — everything from bedtime battles to the challenges of being a first-time dad. The site also connects parents and teens to services in their communities. Plus, DFPS’s HelpandHopeKids Facebook page shares fun and helpful ideas and resources for families.

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