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Forever Families: Preventing Child Abuse

April is "Child Abuse Awareness Month" and the number of Travis County children abused and neglected each year is staggering. According to Child Protective Services, there were more than 2,000 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in Travis County in 2017. The children featured on CBS Austin's "Forever Families" segments are among them. (CBS Austin)

April is "Child Abuse Awareness Month" and the number of Travis County children abused and neglected each year is staggering. According to Child Protective Services, there were more than 2,000 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in Travis County in 2017. The children featured on CBS Austin's "Forever Families" segments are among them.

A thick stack of thin blue ribbons are tied together one by one at the For The City Center on St. John's Avenue in Austin.

"Each ribbon symbolizes a child that has been a confirmed victim of abuse or neglect," said Aaron Oeser, program manager for the DePelchin Children's Center of Austin.

Last year Oeser says the DePelchin Center served 150 children and helped place 13 in adoptive homes. But every April, the ribbons still remain.

"We are honoring a tradition that started in 1989 in Virginia. A grandmother had a 3-year-old grandson that had died from abuse and so she wanted to honor the child by tying a blue ribbon around her antenna," said Oeser.

It's something the entire community can do, but reporting abuse is even more important.

"It's really the help of the community of neighbors, family members that are seeing the signs themselves and helping those children," said Oeser.

Bruises, scrapes, injuries are all signs of abuse. Dirty clothes can be a sign of neglect.

"There are also signs that are not so obvious when it comes to sexual abuse. There may have been abuse that's gone on for a long time. There may be signs of depression," said Oeser.

And Oeser says it can be difficult for children from infant to 17 years old to speak up about their abuse. That's why the community should care.

"It's terrible what they've been through but to get into a safe, loving home and get the support that they need and the healing they need. And to even see them go home with their biological family is wonderful that they can be together again," said Oeser.

To report suspected abuse or child neglect call the DFPS hotline 24/7 1-800-252-5400 or go to their website.

To learn more about fostering or adoption go to The Heart Gallery of Central Texas a program of Partnerships for Children. CBS Austin "Forever Families" airs every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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