In case you didn’t know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Child abuse is something that you don’t want your community to be known for, but unfortunately, there have been some high-profile cases in the Antelope Valley — most notably that of Gabriel Fernandez. Netflix even aired a documentary about the case in 2020 called, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”

Just about everyone has heard one or more of the tragic stories involving Fernandez, Noah Cuatro and Anthony Avalos. Tears have been shed, outrage has been demonstrated, opinion columns have been written and the Children Youth and Families Department has been closely scrutinized and questioned about how they could allow these children to suffer at the hands of their parents.

Little progress has been made in getting answers. The Department instead threw up their hands in a mea culpa and said the caseload was overwhelming and they were short-staffed. We can only hope something is being done to alleviate these issues before another Antelope Valley child becomes a victim.

Child abuse is a nationwide problem and usually one of the “dirty little secrets” kept within families. Sometimes family members don’t tell anyone out of fear of retribution and in some cases, they don’t want to see their relatives go to jail. Victims are usually scared for their lives and don’t want to do anything to upset the abuser. It’s a vicious cycle that can be deadly.

The Children’s Bureau released a “Child Maltreatment” report in 2019, outlining the many facets of child abuse, to include the risk factors, maltreatment types and perpetrator relationship, across the nation.

For 2019, there were a total of 149 child fatalities resulting from child abuse reported in California. That equals a child fatality rate of 1.68 per 100,000 children.

In comparison, Wyoming had none and Alaska had one. Texas, on the other hand, had 229 cases, with a child fatality rate of 3.09 per 100,000 children. Nationally, there were 1,809 child fatalities associated with child abuse, bringing the national rate to 2.50 per 100,000 children. Even one case of child abuse is too many, but the statistics are eye-opening. The report can be viewed here: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/child-maltreatment-2019

Back in the Antelope Valley, the community keeps child abuse awareness at the forefront of peoples’ minds when a birthday or anniversary comes around for Fernandez, Cuatro and Avalos.

Another opportunity to remember them is coming up this weekend. The families of the three boys, along with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, will host a potluck community picnic on Saturday.

The purpose is to bring awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park, 43063 10th St. West in Lancaster. Attendees are invited to bring sharable sides, as mains and drinks will be provided.

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