Steppin' Up for Children

Cache Couty Attorney James Swink speaks during the Steppin' Up for Children event at the Historic Cache County Courthouse Monday afternoon. The annual event is designed to raise awareness of the prevalence of child abuse in Cache County. (Jennifer Meyers/Herald Journal)

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Every 38 minutes, a child in Utah is abused or neglected. Of those, 42 percent of victims are 5 or younger.

That’s according to Esterlee Molyneux, executive director of the Child and Family Support Center of Cache County.

On Monday, 200 pairs of tiny shoes lined the steps of the Historic County Courthouse to represent the cases in Cache Valley that were substantiated by the Department of Child and Family Services in one year.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a month-long pitch to raise awareness was kicked off Monday with “Steppin’ Up for Children.”

“There is no better thing we can strive for than to keep children safe,” Molyneux said Monday.

Cache Valley has often been highlighted as one of the safest communities in the nation, and James Swink, who serves on the Board of Directors for CFSC, attributes that to good families and good parents.

However, as the county attorney, Swink sees an alarming trend in the increasing incidents of child sexual abuse.

In 1995, a total of 15 cases were addressed in Juvenile Court. In 2005, that number was 11, Swink said.

In just the first three months of 2012, that number has doubled — with 22 felony cases in just 90 days.

Swink said it is more important than ever for parents to be aware, especially with the Internet.

“We monitor what our kids are involved in, but do we monitor their media?” he said. “Do we know what they are watching?”

Swink implored parents to teach their children to never give out personal information on the Internet and never arrange to meet Internet acquaintances in person.

Child sexual abuse is only a part of the story.

Most cases of child abuse are a result of people who are unable to handle stress, said Diane Behl, also a member of the CFSC board. On Monday, 100 pinwheels adorned the lawn of the courthouse as a reminder of spring, new growth, and new opportunities to reach out to children and families, she said.

In the promotion of awareness, Behl said the community can make a difference by reaching out to help a family in times of stress, volunteering their time and learning about the signs of child abuse.

Two other events will be held this month to raise awareness and funding for CFSC. A Blue Ribbon dinner and auction will be April 13 at the Copper Mill in Logan, and the Race Against Child Abuse will be April 28 in Wellsville.

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amacavinta@hjnews.com

Twitter: @amacavinta

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