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      Increased Cases of Child Abuse with New School Year

      It's almost time for thousands of children throughout the Rio Grande Valley to hit the books again. The start of a new school year means a new teacher, new friends, sporting events and new goals for students. However, Alicia Gracia Executive Director of CASA a child advocate organization, said unfortunately the new school year will also increase reports to child protective services.

      "Children have been sheltered at home, it's summer time they haven TMt been exposed to the community, Gracia said. As children go back to school, educators and parents at the school may notice children with unexplained bruises burns." Last year, Gracia said, there were nearly 5,500 confirmed cases of child abuse. She adds neglect and abuse can be anything from an malnourished child, one who hoards food from school or one who is continuously not well groomed.

      "Hand me downs are not a problem - poverty is not a sign of abuse by any means and people need to remember that, Gracia said. Often they use it as an excuse, but that TMs not the problem. With clothing that doesn TMt fit, (it TMs abuse if) it TMs constant, if it's dirty, unkempt or not appropriate for the child at all." Gracia said teachers and school administrators are trained to spot many cases of child abuse because they're the ones that are around the children five days a week.

      However, Gracia said, child abuse is sometimes not so hard to spot and people should not be afraid of speaking out because it could be the child's only hope for help.

      "Children (during summer) are exposed to the two-legged monsters, Gracia said. They are home with people that should be their guardians, their protection, their safety, their everything and unfortunately it's not the case for all the children." It's estimated that one every 100 children is a victim of child abuse, throughout the country. CASA advocates said it TMs required that people who suspect child abuse report it to the proper authorities.

      For more information contact CASA at www.casaforcameronwillacy.org and www.BecomeACASA.org