A happy home with loving parents and a safe place to rest a head at night is an invaluable commodity many take for granted.
Unfortunately for some children, this is just a dream as neglect and abuse haunt them day in and day out. To address this issue, the Children’s Justice Center in Provo needs mentors for abused children. Mentors will spend an hour each week for six months doing fun activities with a child such as outdoor sports and hiking.
Jini Roby, a professor in the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, said most of the time, child abuse results from stress within the family. She has seen as she has worked as a social worker that methods of coping result in the happiest families.
“Avoiding stress and managing discipline are the two key cornerstones of avoiding or preventing abuse,” Roby said.
According to Child and Family Services of Utah, 19,544 cases of abuse were reported to Child Protection Services in the past year. Of Utah’s 877,812 children, this results in three percent of the children having gone through CPS. However Annette Dyer, victim assistance coordinator at the Children’s Justice Center, said this number is inaccurate because of unawareness. Dyer said this number is about the average nationwide.
“There’s a lot that’s not reported,” Dyer said. “Many people don’t know that there’s a mandatory reporting law.”
Under this law, adults are required to report if, for example, a child said they were abused or heard about abuse.
“Young children are not developmentally mature enough to make up a lot of things.” Dyer said, “So, we’re guided to take it seriously.”
Most cases reported to CPS involved children witnessing domestic violence, not always being the target. Substance abuse was a factor in around 60 percent of children who are taken into foster homes through CPS. Roby said children mend easily and bounce back.
“Children are so full of promise and are very resilient so, we know that even when there have been cases of abuse and neglect, they can bounce back,” Roby said.
Alexis Richardson, a senior from Elk Ridge studying human development, said she enjoys how much she can do to help children go in the right direction.
“You’re not only affecting the way that they think, you’re affecting the way that they act in their community,” Richardson said.
Roby said affecting children in such a way is rewarding, but can be a challenge.
“You don’t go into it with just a good heart,” Roby said. “You have to learn some real skills.”
Skills necessary to help abused children will be included in the mentor training offered by the Children’s Justice Center.
Mentor training sessions begin Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. Children who have been abused need not only friends, but also positive influences and reliable and consistent presence in their life. To be this presence in a child’s life in this area, contact Annette Dyer at the Children’s Justice Center.
“Down the road,” Dyer said, “[the mentors] come to realize how big a difference they’ve made in a child’s life.”