Bikers Against Child Abuse came out Friday to show their support in reducing child abuse in Central Texas during an event at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center.
These bikers often stand between the child abuse victim and the perpetrator.
The bikers do a psychological adoption and the child is given a road name. Nobody knows the child’s real name and nobody knows what happened to them.
After the initial visit two BACA members are assigned to be the child’s primary contact. The services offered to the child and his or her family are based on needs.
In 2017, more than 1,000 children seen at McLane Children’s Medical Center and specialty clinic had been abused, said Melissa Mesecke, community education specialist at McLane.
There are many more cases that go unreported, Mesecke said.
Every child deserves a happy childhood and every community should fight to ensure each child has one, said Ellen Hansen, chief nursing officer and chief operating officer at McLane Children’s hospital and clinics.
There are many rights where groups take strong stands, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to be treated equally, but who is taking a stand for children’s right to have a safe and happy childhood, Hansen asked.
“Who is their voice in a society that often doesn’t give a voice to children,” she said. “When a child is abused in our community, we have all failed.”
Speaking from the walled garden next door to the hospital, Hansen talked about the children in hospital beds in the floors above who were hospitalized because they had been abused.
“They are in rooms next door to children battling cancer, fighting for their lives, with parents who would take their place in a heartbeat. Doing all they can to love and support their children,” she said.
It’s hard on the McLane staff to see the senseless diagnosis of cancer in a child and the senseless and intentional harm of another child, Hansen said.
“There is hope and it is us,” she said.
Henry Garza, Bell County district attorney, said he appreciates all of the individuals and organizations that take a stand against child abuse.
“Saying that this inexcusable and when we see it we’re going to do everything we can to stop it,” Garza said.
Those who care for the abused child in the hospital or at the scene represent the heart and the soul of this community, he said.
“We are grateful for every single moment you care for these children, extending your expertise, compassion, your love and your care,” Garza said.
Detective Casey Shepherd with the Temple Police Department said throughout his career he has seen the effect of abuse on children.
“On certain cases I’ve witnessed their innocence striped away,” Shepherd said. ‘I’ve witnessed some of these children become young adults and unfortunately seen the cycle of violence continue.”
Children in Temple have a voice that is heard from many avenues — the district attorney’s office, Children Protective Services, Children Advocacy Center, McLane Children’s Protection Team and numerous advocacy and support groups.
“We’ve seen our efforts pay off, but there is still work to do,” he said.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, more child abuse cases were seen in 2017 than any other time.
In Bell County, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of children who instead of being loved and cherished by their parents, are being abused, Shepherd said.
“Crime against children not only impacts the survivor, it affects the community,” he said.
There is help in the community for families that are struggling with parenting, Shepherd said.
Aware Central Texas provides in home training for parents and their children and it’s free, he said.
“You just have to ask for the help and accept it,” Shepherd said.
Kelly Hardy, executive director of CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — of Bell and Coryell counties, said the volunteers come in every day and dedicate their time and energy to abused and neglected children.
“Each day they say ‘I can do something’ and each day they do just that,” Hardy said.
The CASA volunteer takes on all that the child has encountered during the foster care journey.
“We have great spirits and committed hearts in our community,” she said. “They are never daunted by the reality that with great needs come great roadblocks.”
CASA volunteers are committed to follow that child and make sure they get the necessary care, Hardy said.
“I need more people to stand up for our children who have been abused and neglected,” she said.
Pink and blue balloons were released at the conclusion of the event — one balloon for every three child abuse victims seen at McLane Children’s.