Churchill County is feeling blue this month. A small ceremony at Millennium Park on Friday kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month to bring more awareness to both a national and local problem.
“Churchill County and the city of Fallon are turning the town blue,” said commission Chairman Pete Olsen. “We want to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
Olsen said the county recorded 332 cases of child abuse in 2020, down from more than 400 cases two years ago; yet, the numbers are still high as far as Olsen’s concerned.
“I look at that as a scourge in our community,” he added. “We want to get people to stop doing that to our children.”
Olsen commended those who attended the ceremony for their care and support for those most vulnerable to abuse.
Mayor Ken Tedford followed Olsen, also thanking the people for taking time to come to Millennium Park for the short ceremony. During his tenure as mayor and councilman, Tedford has been a strong advocate for child abuse prevention.
“They are the ones who can’t really protect themselves,” he said of the young victims. Tedford then read a joint proclamation from both the city and county. In part the proclamation stated “effective child abuse prevention strategies succeed because of partnerships created among citizens, human services agencies, schools, faith communities, health care providers, civic organization, law enforcement agencies and the business community.”
Furthermore, Tedford said child abuse affects not only victims but also families, the community and the economy.
Steve Ranson/LVN Churchill County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen, left, and Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford present a proclamation on Child Abuse Prevention Month to Brooke Shyne, this year’s project director.
“Churchill County has a goal to ensure public safety for our residents of all ages and, in partnership with organizations such as Prevent Child Abuse Nevada, seeks to provide serves and resources to protect the lives of our children.”
Olsen and Tedford presented the proclamation to Brooke Shyne, who served as project director for ensuring the pinwheels, symbols bringing awareness to child abuse, were planted around the city and for assisting with the ceremony.
Court administrator Sue Sevon, who represented Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Stockard, gave statistics on how the Court Appointed Special Advocates is involved with child abuse prevent.
“The CASA program is currently assigned to 11 cases,” she said. “There are currently a total of nine special advocate volunteers who serve 19 children. In the last year (April 2, 2020 to April 2, 2021) CASA volunteers have assisted stakeholders in achieving permanency outcomes for 20 children resulting in 13 children being reunified with their parent(s), two children being adopted, two children being placed under a guardianship with family members, and three children turned 18, two of which elected to undergo court jurisdiction.”
Sevon said CASA began using a case management system called Optima in 2017 and indicates the local program was appointed to 55 cases and has served 88 children to date.
“Judge Stockard values the welfare of this community and its families,” Sevon said. “During his tenure, the court’s focus has been to improve its processes when dealing with families, but especially children.”
Steve Ranson/LVN Court administrator Sue Sevon with the Tenth Judicial District Court, left, chats with Shannon Ernst, the county’s social services director, after a ceremony to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Sevon said the court is grateful for the collaboration among many agencies and community members who support the mission that children must be in a safe and secure home environment.
Although he didn’t speak at the ceremony, Sheriff Richard Hickox released a statement on Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Over the last 22 years I have investigated or been a part of numerous investigations into allegations of child abuse,” Hickox said. “I have sat and spoke with the victims, (and) I have observed first-hand the damage it can do. It is my distinct honor to lead the men and women of the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office as we stand shoulder to shoulder with so many other agencies working to bring awareness to a devastating crime but more importantly to a person. That person is the victim, the child that has had their world broken and trust destroyed.”
Steve Ranson/LVN Kelly Weishaupt, center, social services rural manager for the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, plans pinwheels at Millennium Park with Brooke Shyne, left, and Chloe Smith.
Hickox said the entire community must be involved, but the process begins when a person reports something suspicious such as bruises, or the child as a scared look.
“Then it is up to us as law enforcement, prosecutors, child and family services and other agencies to put every effort into finding out what happened and getting this child the help they need and their abuser to answer for their actions,” he pointed out.
New River Township Justice Court Judge Ben Trotter offered a few personal remarks.
“We have hear you can choose your friends, but you don’t’ get to pick your family,” he said. At times, he said children find themselves in an abusive home face may face emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
“Children didn’t ask to be in these homes. They were born into them,” Trotter said, adding he was a victim of child abuse from a violent father who would lose his temper and yell at him and his brother.