Bringing awareness to child abuse
Child Abuse Prevention Month kicked off in Churchill with the dying of the Maine Street fountain on Thursday and the reading of proclamations from the city and county on Friday at Millennium Park.
The first national day to bring awareness to child abuse occurred in 1983.
Shannon Ernst, director of Churchill County Social Services, said the number of reports and investigations has been reduced because of awareness and prevention programs. In 2017, the county received 397 reports that resulted in 60 investigations.
“We still have a long ways to go,” she said.
Ernst said many organizations and groups are co-sponsoring events to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is the second year Social Services has organized events through its Family Resource Center. At Millennium Park, volunteers from Girl Scouts Troop 340 placed pinwheels with each pinwheel representing an investigation. The dyed fountain promotes the message of “Turn the City Blue.”
Both the Churchill County Commission and city of Fallon prepared proclamations for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Commissioner Carl Erquiaga recognized the many partners who are making the community aware of child abuse and what can be done to stop it.
Both proclamations said, “Effective child abuse prevention strategies succeed because of partnerships created among citizens, human service agencies, schools, faith communities, health care providers, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community; and studies have continuously shown that child abuse and neglect have far reaching consequences to victims, families, the community and the economy; and with the overarching goals of Community Resource, Public Awareness, Prevention Programs and Advocacy, Prevent Child Abuse Nevada has the vision to be a community leader, partner and resource in preventing child abuse and neglect in the state of Nevada.”
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford wrapped up the proclamation by saying, “America’s Premier Community, 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 services and resources to protect the lives of citizens.”
Kristen Sheldon, parent-community engagement coordinator for the Churchill County School District, introduced a passport that participants may use throughout the month at the various pinwheel events. The grand prize is a staycation.
For each attended event, Sheldon said participants receive a stamp, and at the end of April, they drop their cards off at Banner Churchill Community Hospital’s main entrance. Cards may be picked up at the Churchill Community Coalition at the Old Post Office, Social Services, CCSD’s district office and any CCSD school. Sheldon said the month’s events encourage families to do things together and be more involved.
Court Administrator Sue Sevon, who represented District Court Judge Thomas Stockyard, discussed the role of the court.
“Our job in district court is to handle the neglect abuse cases where the children are removed from the home,” she said.
Sevon added volunteers from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are volunteers who assist children from the beginning after they are removed. She also said CASA received a generous grant from Soprotimists International.
Both Sheriff Ben Trotter and Justice of the Peace Mike Richards offered comments.
Trotter said he was a victim of child abuse from a violent father who would lose his temper and yell at him and his brother.
“I grew up knowing first-hand with what we investigate in my line of work,” he said.
Richards said making people aware of child abuse and prevention is a team effort. He said the majority of restraining orders are granted for women who are victims of abuse and then the children may next encounter abuse. He said the court ensures there’s counseling and follow-up.
“One case is too many,” he said.