See something, say something: This is how to report suspicions of child neglect, abuse

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is not just an overly used African proverb. It is a call to action for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to protecting our children.

Three brothers were found living in a west Harris County apartment alone with the skeletal remains of another one of their siblings. (KPRC)

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The case of three children found living alone in a west Harris County apartment with the skeletal remains of another sibling has people around the country baffled, wondering how and why did this happen, and if anything could have been done to prevent it.

RELATED: Mother of 3 children found living with skeletal remains of 9-year-old sibling questioned and released, HCSO confirms

While there are no immediate answers surrounding the circumstances of the “how” or “why,” as this case is still under investigation, there could be some solutions when it comes to prevention.

See something, say something!

We live in a world where many today are just trying to stay in their protected bubbles, not wanting to interfere in other people’s lives, but sometimes, going out of our comfort zones can help prevent a tragedy -- or prolonged suffering.

What we know:

  • On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy called authorities to report that one of his siblings had been dead in a room inside the home for at least a year.
  • Harris County Sheriff’s deputies were sent to the apartment in the 3500 block of Green Crest to conduct a welfare check.
  • Deputies found the teen and two younger brothers - ages 10 and 7 - alone in the apartment.
  • Deputies also discovered the skeletal remains of a child who the teen identified as their 9-year-old brother.
  • The children said their mother had not been at the apartment in months.
  • Children’s Protective Services took custody of the children.
  • The mother and her boyfriend were located and, as of Monday morning, were questioned and released.
  • The case remains under investigation.

RELATED CONTENT:

Mother of 3 children found living with skeletal remains of 9-year-old sibling questioned and released, HCSO confirms

3 children, including skeletal remains of possible 9-year-old, found inside abandoned apartment in west Harris County, sheriff confirms

CPS says child neglect is the top cause of death in most investigations

What we can do to help:

While no one would ever fathom that the brothers would be living under horrific conditions, authorities want you to know that it is your duty to report any suspicious activity, especially when it comes to a child.

In June, KPRC spoke to a representative from The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, who provided shocking data of child deaths and neglect, and offered tips on how to contact others if you feel something is not right.

DFPS reports that in 2020, there were more than 800 child death investigations, a 7% increase from 2019. However, Harris County reported 48 deaths in 2020, a 1% from the year before.

In 2020, neglectful supervision cases were reported more than any other form of abuse and neglect, according to the department.

There are seven investigators responsible for looking into child deaths in several counties in the southeast portion of the state, including Harris County. They are responsible for only investigating deaths, but there are things everyone can do to prevent abuse cases from escalating to death.

Signs of abuse and neglect can include obvious marks and bruises, unsafe situations without protection and unsanitary home conditions.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can report in the following ways:

Telephone - You may call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 to report abuse or neglect. The hotline is answered by DFPS Intake Specialists (who are all degreed professionals) 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. You will be asked to provide your name and contact information. You will be asked to explain your concerns. The Intake Specialist might ask additional questions to determine if the situation that you describe meets the Texas Family Code’s definitions of abuse or neglect.

Internet - You may report your allegations to the Texas Abuse Hotline. This secure website provides a way to explain your concerns in writing. You must provide your name and a valid e-mail address. Your identity remains confidential and will not be provided directly to the accused person by any DFPS employee. Once an Intake Specialist processes your report, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with a Call Identification Number. The e-mail will also tell you whether or not your report was forwarded to a local DFPS office for further investigation.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is not just an overly used African proverb. It is a call to action for an “all hands on deck” approach to protecting our children. Don’t remain silent. Speak up -- it just might save a life.


About the Author:

Mother of two. Award-winning lover of digital storytelling, sparked by my fascination of being a fashionable gossip like my favorite "Willona Woods" character from "Good Times." On the serious side, president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and dedicated community servant. Happy to share the news with you each and every day!