April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. With several county and state organizations supporting the event with programs and activities, public awareness regarding the dangers of child abuse continues to grow.
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, the need for increased awareness and the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children led to the passage of the first federal protection legislation.
The 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has been amended many times, but the purpose of the original legislation remains intact.
Today, the youth bureau, Administration for Children and Families and United States Department of Health and Human Services are the federal agencies charged with supporting local governments' efforts to curb the world-wide issue of child abuse.
A history of the national prevention effort is detailed at www.childwelfare.gov.
In the early 1980s, the U.S. Congress made a further commitment to identifying and implementing solutions to child abuse.
Recognizing the alarming rate at which children continued to be abused and neglected and the need for innovative programs to prevent child abuse and assist parents and families affected by maltreatment.
In 1982, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved that the week of June 6 to June 12 should be designated as the nation's first Child Abuse Prevention Week.
They asked the president to issue a proclamation calling upon government agencies and the public to observe the week with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.
The following year, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Since then, child abuse and neglect awareness activities have been promoted across the country during the month of April.
In 2004, there was emerging consensus among federal agencies and national child abuse prevention organizations.
Federal government agencies and organization representatives discovered that building awareness for child abuse prevention required engaging the public in efforts to strengthen the support to families and enhance parenting skills in adults.
Building on the national momentum, the child abuse system as a whole shifted the focus of its child abuse prevention resources to incorporate a family strengthening the message promoting parenting and community support.
Currently, the Child Abuse Prevention Initiative represents an opportunity for communities across the country to keep children safe, provide the support families need to stay together and raise youth to be happy, secure and stable adults.
The statistics compiled in the state of Utah demonstrate that ,while progress and education are moving forward, child abuse remains a serious issue for the state.
According to the Utah Department of Children and Families, 20,340 child abuse referrals were investigated by case workers during fiscal year 2007.
Of the total number of referrals, 8,386 or 41 percent were supported by information collected by the case workers.
1,229 of the total number of the child abuse victims received foster care.
53 percent of the total number of child abuse victims were female, putting males at 46 percent.
29 percent of the supported abuse or neglect cases had alcohol or drug abuse as a contributing factor as reported by caseworkers.
"While the number of referrals increased slightly from last year, the percentages remained the same," stated the DCFS site at www.preventchildabuseutah.org.
Prevention programs offered at locations throughout the state include:
PCA Utah's child abuse prevention programs deal with all aspects of child abuse; physical, sexual, emotional and neglect.
All of the age level appropriate programs consist of classroom discussions, visual aids, videos and other interactive activities such as role playing, according to state agency
Programs are typically given in the classroom and can be customized to fit the needs of individual students.
The stop violence, start safety program is a one week experience that is the only one of it's kind in Utah, according to the prevent child abuse website.
The program is designed for students suspended for safe school violations. When suspended, the student and parent or guardian sign a contract with school district personnel agreeing to complete this program before being officially reinstated in school.
Editor's note: Today's article is the first in a three-part series highlighting the child abuse awareness and prevention efforts specific to Carbon County as well as the legal strategies of investigating law enforcement agencies and local as well as state prosecutor's offices dealing with related criminal cases.