SAN ANTONIO — A local nonprofit will employ cardboard, creativity and the power of social media to raise awareness about child abuse in San Antonio during April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
ChildSafe, which provides a range of services to families that have experienced child physical or sexual abuse, will soon launch Cardboard Kids, a monthlong campaign to get people talking about a subject most would rather avoid.
ChildSafe distributed 5,846 two-foot-tall cardboard cutouts — one for each confirmed victim of child abuse in Bexar County in 2013 — to more than 70 groups and community organizations, from churches and scouting packs to businesses and law enforcement agencies.
Each recipient was instructed to decorate and name the “kid,” indicated on a tag attached to the front.
On April 3, participants will place their Cardboard Kid in public spaces across the city — grocery carts, office lobbies, restaurants, museums, libraries, schools and so on. They’re asked to take a picture of the displayed Cardboard Kid and post it on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #cardboardkidsSA.
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“Everywhere you might see a child, we want to place a Cardboard Kid,” said Cathy Siegel, ChildSafe’s director of development. “It’s about owning this issue in San Antonio.”
Cellphone users with the right app can scan a quick-response code on the back of each cutout that will automatically take them to the Cardboard Kids website, which provides information about child abuse prevention and other related material.
Whenever Sigel brings up child abuse in the community, people often avert their eyes and look at the ground, she said. By not talking about child abuse, people in a way model what perpetrators say to victims.
“They tell them, ‘It’s a secret, don’t talk about it,’” she said.
Participants in the Cardboard Kids campaign, which is sponsored by the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, have been instructed to tell store managers, business owners, school principals and others about what they’re doing, so the cutouts will remain in place, Siegel said.
As word of the campaign spread, all 5,846 of the cardboard cutouts got distributed, Siegel said.
Employees at Valero Energy’s corporate headquarters decorated more than 900 of them; employees at Zachry Holdings Inc. did more than 500. Inmates at the Bexar County Jail also got into the act, Siegel said.
“One man decorated his as himself as a child, with a black eye (from abuse,)” she said. “Another inmate drew his Cardboard Kid without shoes, because he lacked shoes as a child.”
ChildSafe partnered with the San Antonio Spurs; when the team plays the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 500 Cardboard Kids will perch in seats throughout the AT&T Center.
The agency has also partnered with local bloggers, who’ve agreed to spread the word about Cardboard Kids and child abuse prevention on their sites during April.
Last year, Bexar County had the second-highest number of confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the state, said ChildSafe CEO Kim Abernethy.
“San Antonio is a wonderful city, but (abuse) hangs heavy over our heads,” she said. “Our goal is to get everyone talking. It’s about saying, ‘We’re not going to let this happen anymore.’”
Originally published on March 6, 2014 by San Antonio Express-News
Article By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
Photo By Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News