Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Colors of Life exhibition at NorthPark Center displays plight of children
Officials at the National Portrait Gallery selected the 30 photos displayed at NorthPark.
In one black and white photo, a man stands to the side blowing out smoke from his cigarette. The smoke leads into the mouths of the two children standing in the foreground.
“When I look at these pictures, they have such a profound impact on me. I just want to help,” said Amanda Langford, the director of operations at TexProtects, at the recent VIP reception of the Colors of Life Exhibition.
The exhibition, which depicts children from across the world, is a partnership of the Texas Association for the Protection of Children (TexProtects) and the nonprofit group, Every Child Matters. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Dallas and the exhibition runs through April 22. It shows the victims of abuse, and challenges the government to make children a priority in public policy.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings proclaimed April Child Abuse Prevention Month in light of the growing number of abuse cases in Dallas and across Texas.
Texas is ranked 50th for child protection in the country. There were more than 5,000 confirmed child abuse cases in Dallas last year alone. Of the 534 children in Dallas’ Child Protective Services, 18 percent of them were re-abused in foster care.
“Yes, we are in Texas, in part, because it’s Child Abuse Prevention Month but also because every year hundreds of children are killed in their homes by family members and it never seems to stop,” said Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters, a child advocacy organization that promotes public policies and invests in a wide range of children’s programs.
Overall, child abuse costs society $124 billion a year. Dallas spent $482.6 million on child abuse in one year alone.
“I’ve been a children’s advocate for a long time, and seeing things like this is astounding,” said Maurine Dickey, a Dallas County commissioner who spoke at the VIP reception.
In one photo, a child from Bangladesh searches a dump yard for scraps of metal to sell. Alongside him, a pig eats the trash. Another photo displays a little boy, whose face is sprinkled with dirt. He looks directly at the viewer, as if pleading for help.
Displaying these photos at the mall is a great way of getting a slice of the mainstream crowd in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to witness the horror of child abuse, said Madeline McClure, founder and executive director at TexProtects. The agency tackles issues for CPS reform, prevention, and public awareness to bring an organized voice for the needs of children.
Nationally, there are about 3 million reports of child abuse each year involving more than 6 million children. In Texas alone, 181 kids are confirmed for abuse every single day and almost four children are killed each week.
That doesn’t include drive-by-shootings, accidental drownings, accidental crib and bed deaths, and car accidents.
“I think if people really understood the extent of child abuse there would be a huge national movement and we wouldn’t focus on anything else,” said McClure.
There are hefty consequences of child abuse. It affects the child’s life drastically: ruining their sense of self, creating health problems with links to substance abuse, underachievement in school, and unemployment.
“It’s such a violation of who the person is. It’s that loss of control. Your innocence could be stolen like that,” said McClure.
Accompanying the photos is a “Presidents Helping Children” display with 11 posters informing the public of how U.S. presidents have advanced child well-being over the last century.
“It raises a specter of how president’s and legislatures actually can change the plight of children by enacting legislation that really affects millions at a time,” McClure said.
The Colors of Life Foundation, an organization that utilizes art to educate people that might not understand the plight of children, held an international photo competition for the exhibit. Officials at the National Portrait Gallery selected the 30 photos displayed at NorthPark.
Ninety-five percent of all abuse is in the child’s home. Many of these children begin to form split-personalities, creating two identities, say social workers. On the one hand, trying to trust the parents who provide them shelter, food and clothing, but on the other, forming protection against the people who are abusing them.
“What we are trying to do is raise the visibility of children’s needs and to mobilize the public on behalf of children,” said Petit.
Promise House is a local organization that embraces homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth. They also provide therapy to children who have been abused or neglected in their homes. Officials there say there is hope for some of these young people: Lorena, now a college student, bounced around her relatives’ and foster homes after being sexually and physically abused her entire life. She ended up at Promise House, where officials keep information like her last name private.
“Through individualized skills, encouragement, support, and hope to live a better life, Lorena became valedictorian of her senior class and is now at University of Texas at Austin on scholarship,” said Harriet Boorhem, the president of Promise House.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Daily Campus
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