Area agencies launch campaign to combat child abuse problems
|Sun Advocate Publisher Richard Shaw delivers a $435 check to the Carbon County Children's Justice Center on 100 North in Price. The center offers crisis care for families with children from infants to 11 years old. |
As April comes into full swing, the Utah Division of Child and Family Services along with Bikers Against Child Abuse plan to raise community awareness to an all time high.
"The local chapter is looking to participate in all the statewide activities that are available for child abuse education month this April," said southeastern Utah BACA chapter president Ted Allen. "We are going to start by participating in the Healing Fields ceremony in West Jordan and then going on a 100-mile ride that we will use as a fundraiser to increase awareness."
The southeastern chapter encompasses Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties and currently boasts 16 members along with three supporters.
The group exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children.
"We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live," states the group's website at www.bacausa.com. "We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children.
BACA is organized with a central contact person to receive calls from referring agencies and individuals. An authorized agency with which the child has had contact determines whether the youth is still frightened by his or her environment.
An agency representative contacts BACA or refers the individual to the group. The name and address of the youth are given to the BACA-child liaison.
The liaison determines whether the case is legitimate, meaning that the authorities have been contacted and the case is being processed within the system.
The liaison contacts the family and an initial ride is organized to meet the child at their home or in some other location.
The entire chapter rides to meet the child and the youth is given a vest with a BACA patch sewn on the back.
"The child is free to wear the vest or not and we support their decision," stated the group's website.
According to Bonnie Seals at DCFS, domestic violence and drug abuse are the main factors that cause children to be removed from their homes.
"We used to see meth almost exclusively when we were investigating child abuse crimes," pointed out Seals. "However, lately, we are seeing more coke and heroin along with a massive amount of prescription medication abuse."
The child and family services department representative reported that domestic violence and drug abuse often go hand in hand when it comes to the complaints the state agency investigates.
"One just amplifies the dangerous affects of the other," said Seals.
DCFS is brought into a case when a complaint is lodged from a concerned individual, sometimes a family member, sometimes a member of the community.
The division's case workers then evaluate the information and determine weather or not to further investigate the allegation.
If a complaint is lodged against the parents, Seals indicated that the child is spoken to alone before the parents are brought in for an interview.
However, the parents are notified immediately after the child has been interviewed.
"A home interview is then conducted where we look for signs of neglect or abuse, we make sure the child is being cared for adequately," said Seals.
"The child's safety is paramount with our organization but we do everything we can to keep the child at home. That means that if the family is living in a tent and there is sufficient food and warmth and the child is being cared for we leave the family alone," stressed the DCFS representative .
Data collected by the state agency indicate that child protective services currently has 45 cases pending in the Carbon County area.
The number of local cases accounts for the highest percentage reported in eastern Utah.
If the youth's parents are not involved in the initial child abuse complaint, they are brought in for interview and further investigation is conducted into the matter.
"We try to provide the best assistance we can," said Seals. "We have a good knowledge of the community and programs that are available here and we make sure that parents are made aware of all that is here for them."
Seals emphasized how important community is for the child, stating that many non-punitive programs are available to parents before DCFS becomes involved in the child's life.
"One of the saddest things that can happen is that once DCFS is involved a child can be taken from the home due to their own behavior and decisions," said Seals.
She concluded by stating that the caseworkers in Carbon and Emery counties are the best she has ever seen.
"We don't want to jerk children from their homes. But our first priority is a child's safety and we will do what we have to in order to protect them," reiterated Seals.