Display of kids’ shoes demonstrates child abuse cases in Cache County

An 8-year-old girl with a lemonade stand proved no one is too small to make a difference in the lives of others. After learning how the Child & Family Support Center (CFSC) helps children her own age last summer, Katie Low wanted to help. Low said she decided to donate half of the money she earned selling lemonade to the center. “She brought in a bag of sticky quarters, dimes and nickels,” CFSC Director Esterlee Molyneux said. A crowd gathered at the Cache County Historic Courthouse Monday afternoon for the third annual Steppin’ Up for Children, a program to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect in the county. The event kicked off National Child Abuse Prevention Month. At the gathering, Molyneux and two others spoke about how the community can help prevent abuse. The courthouse stairs were lined with 200 pairs of small shoes demonstrating substantiated cases of abuse or neglect in the county last year. Molyneux said a child in Utah is abused or neglected every 38 minutes. Of these victims, 42 percent are 5 years old or younger. “Our valley is not immune from this tragic, nationwide problem,” she said. So far this year, 22 cases of life-endangering sex abused have been filed in juvenile court, meaning one child abusing another. In 2005, there were only 12 of these kind of cases reported, but in recent years there have been as many as 80 cases per year. Cache County Attorney James Swink attributes this dramatic increase to internet use and pornography. “You don’t have three and four times the increase of crime unless there’s a reason, and I submit to you that the internet is a big problem that we’re seeing in the lives of juveniles who act out what they see and perpetrate on young children,” he said. Cache County has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, Swink said, and while police and other officials work to keep the crime rate low, good parenting plays a significant role. Parents who know where their children are and what they’re involved in are better able to protect their children. However, parents need to also monitor the kind of media kids are viewing. As a generation raised on computers, kids are computer savvy and many know how to delete internet browsing history. Talking to kids about which websites are appropriate to visit, setting time limits on computer use and installing software with parental controls can decrease the likelihood a child will misuse the internet. Community members can also help prevent child abuse by helping families under stress, volunteering time to organizations like the Parent Teacher Association or referring families to the CFSC. Learning about abuse and neglect will prepare the community to recognize warning signs. The CFSC is celebrating its 30th year of operation. Last year, the center served 5,292 kids and 2,124 adults. Of a staff of 22 people, only six are full-time employees, so the center relies on volunteers and donations from community members to serve everyone that needs help. “Working together, we can speak for those whose voices are too soft to be heard,” Molyneux said. The CFSC provides parenting classes, a 24-hour crisis respite nursery, family education, therapy and other services to families in the community. Information on classes and other services can be found on the center’s

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Events for National Child Abuse Prevention Month continue with the annual benefit dinner and auction April 13 and Race against Child Abuse April 28. The center will also be hosting a golf tournament in June. A brand new event benefiting the center, a mud run and obstacle course, is being planned for August. Hosted by the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, each obstacle will represent a way to break out of jail. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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