Governor seeks to prevent child abuse

By Ramsey Scott

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — The legacy of child abuse goes beyond the pain and suffering that leave permanent scars on both physical and mental well-being. It affects every aspect of society and can even lead to additional strains on mental health services and the judicial system.

That’s why a multifaceted approach from every sector in a community is needed to not only care for those children who have been abused, but also to stop potential abuse from occurring.

As part of the recognition of the need for that comprehensive effort, Gov. Mark Gordon signed two proclamations Monday to draw attention to the issue of child abuse and hopefully rally support from all sectors of Wyoming.

Gordon declared April as Child Abuse Awareness Month, and recognized the week of April 9 as the Week of the Young Child, which focuses attention on the needs of young children and their families.

The proclamation states that more than 1,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect each year in Wyoming. According to the Child Welfare League of America, in 2016, there were 977 victims of abuse or neglect in Wyoming, a rate of 7 per 1,000 children. Of these children, 74.7 percent were neglected, 3.1 percent were physically abused and 8 percent were sexually abused.

Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Kate Fox, who chairs the state’s Children’s Justice Project, said the state needs to invest in and foster the development of children and ensure they have stability in their lives. She said the number of abused children in Wyoming is most likely higher than the 1,000-a-year average due to under-reporting, and that it was imperative to make sure children have every opportunity to be protected and to heal.

“As a society, we want to raise healthy communities, adults who will raise healthy children and probably adults who would stay out of prison,” Fox said during the event. “Child abuse occurs across all socioeconomic (levels). But very often, where it occurs is in conjunction with poverty, mental health and substance abuse issues.

“I would suggest it seems like an obvious place to invest more resources in the mental health, substance abuse and child-care areas.”

During his speech, Gordon highlighted his experiences raising two daughters on his own after his first wife died. He said he depended on the support and expertise of the community to be able to succeed as a parent.

To help solve the issue of child abuse, Gordon said the community needed to come together to provide the same type of support for children in need.

“We need to do the best that we can to prevent child abuse. It is a horrible thing we see far too often in this state, and poverty has a lot to do it,” Gordon said.

“It’s incumbent on our communities to be able to lift up our families and lift up our children.”

After the event, Gordon said he would continue to work to break down barriers between agencies that were touched by the effects of child abuse in order to create a more unified and comprehensive approach.