Jovonie Ochoa was starved and neglected by his family, leading to his death at four years of age on Christmas Day, 2003. The brutality of Jovonie’s death was a tipping point in Bexar County, inspiring both the foundation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force and efforts to reform the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In January 2005, the Jovonie Declaration was written and signed by community leaders and elected officials. The Declaration honors the life of Jovonie Ochoa and other victims of child abuse and neglect, and affirms our community’s commitment to fighting child abuse and advancing the welfare of children in Bexar County.
I. Call to Action
We, the Citizens of Bexar County, call on one another to place children first in all that we do. Recognizing that providing for the safety and welfare of our children is a moral obligation that guarantees our future, we call for the creation of a community that protects and nurtures the potential of every child.
II. Why We Place Children First
We as a community place children first because they are our most precious resource. We place children first to guarantee the survival, health, and vitality of our civilization. Children connect our present with our past; children create our future.
We as a community place children first because dreams are born in childhood, and dreams build our nation. A child’s dreams are nurtured to fruition by a society that provides for the safety and welfare of its youngest and most vulnerable. Such a society prepares fertile ground where its children’s dreams – and its future – can grow.
We as a community place children first because doing so creates stronger families; better students; less crime; a more creative, productive workforce; and increased economic resources for the benefit of all. The crucial, early years of each human life are a window of opportunity that may never come again. The early years of each human life are our best chance to shape the citizens who will carry us forward as a people.
III. How We Will Place Children First
We as a community will place children first by resolving that the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children are never acceptable in our community. We will not tolerate inadequate resources for protecting children at risk of danger, nor will we ignore our suspicions of abuse or neglect. We will demand accountability from those responsible for a child’s welfare: parents, teachers, religious leaders, child welfare workers, healthcare workers, public safety officers, elected officials, and the community as a whole. We acknowledge that we share a common responsibility for the welfare of our children.
We as a community will place children first by ensuring that all children have the food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care necessary to develop strong bodies and minds. We will not tolerate the reduction of these indispensable services during times of fiscal crisis.
We as a community will place children first by making the establishment of a loving, supportive home our goal for every child. We will provide the resources to help each parent or caregiver serve as a child’s first and most important protector, teacher, and role model whenever possible. We will encourage the development of self-sufficiency for all families while recognizing that no family stands alone.
We as a community will place children first by acknowledging that economic realities require many parents and caregivers to work while their children are cared for by others. We will create resources for safe, affordable childcare that allows parents and caregivers to earn a living wage while raising their families.
We as a community will place children first by building a community that encourages the development of healthy children. We will create safe streets and playgrounds; ensure the availability of abundant fresh air, safe food, and clean water; and provide activities that encourage the development of strong minds and healthy bodies. We will develop a community of economic and cultural vitality and diversity, balanced by a commitment to civic duty and community welfare.
We, the Citizens of Bexar County, declare that the safety and welfare of our children will be our first priority in all that we undertake from this day forward. Children in Bexar County will be protected, cherished, and nurtured as our most vital, precious resource.