Alamosa County commissioners joined with the county’s human services department on Wednesday to declare April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pictured from left are: Commissioner Michael Yohn, Casework Supervisor Lynn Balderas, Department of Human Services Deputy Director Laurie Rivera, Commissioner Darius Allen, Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly, Human Services Director Joe Carrico and Commissioner Marianne Dunne.
Courier photo by Rudy Herndon
Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — In the time that it takes you to read this sentence, someone in the United States is reporting another case of child abuse.
From one end of the country to the other, Americans file 3.3 million reports of child abuse every year, and altogether, their reports may affect twice as many children.
Child abuse typically occurs when parents find themselves in stressful situations and don’t know how to cope. But most cases could be prevented if families had the community support they need in order to nurture their children, Alamosa County commissioners said Wednesday.
To raise awareness of the issue, the board voted unanimously to declare April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Commission Chair Darius Allen told representatives from the county’s human services department that the annual declaration is one tradition he’d gladly do away with.
“One of these days I’d like to see you come in and say: ‘We don’t need that today. Everything’s OK,’” he said.
Until then, Allen and the rest of the board are urging every citizen, community agency, faith-based group and business to become more involved with the county’s efforts to help every child grow up in a secure and loving environment.
“As a nation and as a community, it is our responsibility to build a safe and nurturing society so that young people can realize their full potential,” their proclamation says.
Commissioner Marianne Dunne thanked county officials for taking a hands-on approach to address the problem at the local level.
“We have to be proactive and get down to where the real causes are,” she said.
The county’s most recent child welfare report found that officials assessed or accepted 73 cases involving 109 children, according to Department of Human Services Deputy Director Laurie Rivera.
As of late-February, 82 open cases were pending, and 52 of those went through the court system.
Allen took a few moments to honor Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly for his work on behalf of those children.
There’s more work to be done, though, to engage communities at the local and national levels.
Advocates say the issue affects people across the spectrum. Victims and perpetrators of child abuse come from every class, ethnic group, religion and educational background.
But the problem may take its greatest toll on the youngest and most vulnerable Americans. About 80 percent of abused children who die each year are under the age of four, according to the group Childhelp.
Those who survive abusive childhoods are more likely to perpetuate the cycle.
Almost one-third of abused children will go on as adults to abuse their own children.
Others are more likely to engage in risky or dangerous behaviors as teenagers or adults.
Among other things, they face a greater possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases; abused girls are also more likely to become pregnant at young ages.
Two out of three people who enter drug abuse treatment programs report that they were abused as children. About one in three are more likely to commit violent crimes, while women who were abused as girls are 36 percent more likely to end up in prison at some point in their lives.
The total costs to society add up to a staggering $124 billion a year, according to Childhelp.