ALAMOSA — Acknowledging the problem of child abuse and the need for the entire community to address it, Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month during the April 5th city council meeting.
Accepting the proclamation were Francisco Andrade and Angela Felice who serve on the front lines in terms of dealing with child abuse in the Alamosa area.
Andrade said statewide there were 99,649 referrals to child protection services last year with more than a third of those accepted for investigation or assessment. The percentages of referrals accepted for investigation are higher in the San Luis Valley, he added.
In Alamosa, 411 cases were referred with 228 or 55 percent accepted for investigation/assessment. In Conejos 111 referrals were received with about half, or 57 followed up with investigation; in Costilla County 93 referrals with about half or 57 accepted for investigation; in Rio Grande County 211 with 90 followed by investigations or assessments; and in Saguache 121 referrals resulted in 44 investigations.
“We have seen an increase in referrals,” Andrade said. “It’s something we feel needs to be brought to attention. It needs to be made aware that child abuse is everyone’s duty to prevent and to pay attention to and bring awareness.”
Felice said calls could be made 24/7 to 1-844-CO-4-KIDS, and local case workers are on call to respond to the calls that are referred locally. Depending on the level of emergency, staff will respond immediately or within a few days, contacting the children and bringing the family in to assess the situation, she explained.
“We try to find the child first,” she said, adding that caseworkers work closely with the school district where the initial contact with the child might be made. “We see the kids, make sure they are safe.”
Councilor Ty Coleman said he knew firsthand the types of calls that child protective workers deal with since his mother was a police officer in Houston, Texas and served in the child protection unit for a time. He said it was hard to believe people could do some of the horrible things they would do to children.
He added that a lot of children are afraid to talk about what they are going through.
“Thank you for providing that safe place for families and kids to come to,” he said.
Councilor Kristina Daniel also thanked the caseworkers for providing so many services and supports for families.
Councilors added that the carnival held on Saturday was a great community event to bring awareness to child abuse prevention and to provide a fun day of activities for families. Felice said 551 children attended the event with the total attendance more than 1,000 including adults.
“I think these events are fantastic,” said councilor Liz Thomas Hensley whose grandchildren attended the carnival. “It’s great to see the community come together.”
In proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mayor Lucero acknowledged that it is everyone’s responsibility “to build a safe and nurturing society so that our young people can realize their full potential.”
He stated that this is a time “to renew our commitment to preventing child abuse and rededicate ourselves to working together to ensure that all children can have a bright and hopeful future.”
He urged everyone in the community to become involved in preventing child abuse, because it is a community problem that not only directly harms children but also increases the likelihood of long term physical and mental health problems, alcohol and substance abuse, continued family violence and criminal behavior.
The community can help reduce the risks and stresses that can lead to child abuse, he added.
“Child abuse and neglect can be reduced by making sure that each family has the support they need in raising their children in a safe and nurturing environment,” the mayor proclaimed.
He called upon social service agencies, schools, faith-based communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community to work together to address “to increase their participation and commitment in our efforts to support families and protect our children from abuse and neglect, helping to ensure that each child can grow up in a secure and loving environment.”