Blue ribbon awareness
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the new statistics show child abuse-related deaths are on the rise across the nation.
Texas saw the biggest increase, recording a spike of roughly 30 percent. Texas, we must do better than this!
In this new study, Texas led the nation in child abuse-related deaths for the 2016 fiscal year with 217 child fatalities being attributed to abuse and neglect. This is up from 162 deaths the previous year.
It is difficult to understand the reasons behind the increases. According to TexProtects, a nonprofit focused on reducing child abuse, increasing caseloads for CPS employees may be preventing abused children from getting the services they need.
Another suggested factor is the growing opioid crisis. According to Dimple Patel, associate director of Public Policy for TexProtects, 51 percent of child abuse-related fatalities recorded in Texas involved a caregiver who was either actively using or under the influence of drugs at the time of the child’s death.
Also during this time of Covid-19, many parents and children are not able to remain on necessary medication for mental health due to job losses and physicians not seeing patients.
While the causes are speculation, experts agree that early intervention for families where drug abuse is occurring and expanding services for families where abuse and neglect has already occurred are essential in curbing the problem.
But why blue ribbons and the color blue?
In the spring of 1989, a Virginia grandmother named Bonnie Finney tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van. When people asked her why, she shared with them the story of her grandchildren and the child abuse they had suffered, which ultimately led to the death of her 3-year-old grandson.
The spirit of the blue ribbon grew and by the following year it had become the symbol of child abuse prevention in the state of Virginia. Now a national symbol, Bonnie’s story demonstrates the effect just one concerned citizen can have on raising public awareness and promoting child abuse prevention efforts.
Below is Bonnie’s story in her own words. Please be aware that Bonnie’s story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.
Dear Advocate for the Child:
"NO! It isn’t true! It simply cannot be true! They are telling me that my grandson is dead … they are wrong! There must be some mistake … Michael is fine … but deep in my heart, I knew it was true for I have not seen him in weeks. It’s been so long since I sat by his side in the hospital. Of course I knew something was wrong as I sat there. I saw fear on his face, the bruises on his body, and the healing cigarette burns on his hands. His doctor did not believe my daughter’s story … “he fell in slippery water in the bathtub” … I felt sick … I didn’t understand … Are my granddaughters all right, was all I thought. Where are they?
I only had one child. She was a beautiful little girl. She was the light of our eyes. We knew she had entered into a stormy marriage, for we brought her home several times in the five years the marriage lasted. We suspected heavy use of drugs … BUT … in those five years, three beautiful, healthy children had been born. I loved them dearly, and they loved me. The children were 16 months, 3 years and 4 years old.
After the ordeal at the hospital, my grandson was placed in foster care for three weeks. He cried when they came to take him back to his mother. He told his foster mother, “my momma doesn’t love me,” and he begged to stay. I ached for his dilemma. I was not physically able to care for him. The courts seemed to believe that home was the best place for him … but I knew better and I told … no, begged them not to return him to his mother. But I was overruled. My instinct as a grandmother did not count.
I never saw Michael again. My 16 month old granddaughter was hospitalized after being beaten severely … her leg was broken in four places, and her hand burned from the tip of her little fingers to her wrist. It was only then that the “search was on” for Michael. We learned that he had been killed, wrapped in a sheet, stuffed in a tool box and dumped in to a dismal swamp three months earlier.
My grandchildren had suffered and battled so much throughout their young lives that it sickened me. My life was turned into physical and mental chaos. My efforts to understand became a plea to stop abusing children. I tied a blue ribbon on my van antenna to make people wonder. It caught on locally with restaurants, businesses, the police department and radio and television stations. They all started supporting me in my efforts to make a real awareness campaign.
Why the color blue? I never intend to forget the battered, bruised bodies of my grandchildren. Bruises are black, then eventually blue. Therefore, blue serves as a constant reminder to me to fight for our children. Everyday, I pray that our children will be allowed to hear the sounds of a different drummer.
Join with me … we must protect our most precious gift of all … our children. Please wear a blue ribbon … put one on your car … give one to your friends … tell them what it means … you may be saving a child’s life! If you suspect anything is happening to your children … your grandchildren … the child next door … PLEASE ACT! If you don’t get any results or a response, please try again. You may not hear their screams … you may not see their bruises … so check for the pain and screams in their eyes".
-Bonnie Finney, Norfolk, Va.S.