Toddler’s death overshadows event to promote child abuse prevention


TEXARKANA, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – News of the death of a toddler in Texarkana, Arkansas due to alleged abuse coincided on a day child welfare advocates gathered to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

The child died Tuesday evening at the hospital.  Her stepmother, McKenna Belcher-Cawley, is charged with capital murder in the case. McKenna also faces a second degree domestic battery charge.  Police say she abused her two year old stepson, as well. The young boy, along with an infant, are currently in state custody. 

The children’s father, Everette Cawley, faces two counts of permitting abuse. He and McKenna are expected to appear in court Friday morning.

“We hope that this would just spark more people to really get involved,” said Laura Smith, a volunteer with The Call of Miller County.  The group, Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime, recruits and trains foster families in the state.  “It’s really bad,” Smith said.  “We have the worst bed to child ratio in the state.”  

“It’s happening every day and a lot of people are really afraid to call in to the hotline and report it because they feel like they’re getting in someone’s business,” said DCFS Family Service Worker Carone Estell. She encouraged people to call the National Child Abuse Hotline if they even suspect abuse, emphasizing the state has trained investigators that can determine if there really is an abusive situation occurring.  

Child welfare advocates also invite people interested in fostering to reach out for more information.  In Miller County right now, we have eighty-nine kids in foster care that have suffered child abuse or neglect. If you suspect child abuse, please report it. It can save a child’s life.”

The Call of Miller County will host an information meeting on Thursday, April fourth, at 6:30pm at Spring Lake Park Baptist Church at 4601 Texas Boulevard. For more information, call (903) 733-5164.

The National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A- CHILD or 1-800-422-4453.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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