A Look at Child Abuse on the South Plains, As Midland Infant Remains in Critical Condition

A Midland infant remains in critical condition, after police say 22-year-old Tiffany Enriquez and 28-year-old Timothy Penn harmed him. The child is suffering from several serious wounds including a brain bleed, and both Penn and Enriquez face first degree felony charges.

Assistant District Attorney Barron Slack deals with many of the child abuse cases that come through Lubbock County. He says while every case is different, the Midland case is more serious than most he sees.

"It carries that same punishment range as a murder or those types of offenses because it is a serious offense,” Slack said. “We are talking about injuries that could have lifelong effects for the child."

He says they may see cases with serious bodily injury to a child only a few times a year. For a first-degree felony, punishment could range from five years to 99, if attorneys can prove they intentionally and knowingly hurt the child.

"Our state takes it serious when someone is trying to severely hurt a kid, when they set out to do that,” Slack said.

In Texas in 2016, according to the Department of Family And Protective Services over 8,000 kids in Texas were physically abused just last year. 123 of those were in Lubbock County.

CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, works to give a voice to those kids.

Gabriel Ballesteros, at CASA of the South Plains, says children are coming into the system faster than they expected. They originally expected kids to come into the system last year at a rate of 6 percent, but in reality it jumped to 9 percent.

“Each week, 10 to 15 kids are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect,” Ballesteros said. “So you can imagine that is no small number.”

He says they are short on volunteers, and it is harder to recruit CASA’s during the summer months. There were 800 kids in the system that did not have a CASA advocate last year, but they hope to add 35 new volunteers by July.

“If we can hit that goal of 35 volunteers, that's just a huge difference that that will make in the lives of the foster kids here,” Ballesteros said.

They hold CASA 101 informational sessions to get people interested in volunteering. They hope to hold one later on in the summer. CLICK HERE for more information on how to volunteer.

CLICK HERE for information on how to report a case of abuse or neglect.

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