Contact: Thomas Hottman
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and various community organizations in Klamath County have joined the national movement to raise awareness and strengthen families.
Day of Hope is an annual community event and this year’s organizers include Sky Lakes Medical Center, the Department of Human Services, Klamath-Lake Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services (CARES, a Sky Lakes department), Klamath & Lake Community Action Services, Lutheran Community Services and Cascade Health Alliance.
“Day of Hope allows people to focus in on the message that they can make a difference and stop child abuse,” Jeremy Player, DHS district manager said. “Anytime that we can bring the community together to address child abuse is a worthwhile cause.”
Day of Hope begins at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at Sugarman’s Corner, at North Sixth and Main streets downtown. The event will feature musical performances from local children’s groups and high school choirs, educational speakers and healthy snacks. The keynote speech will be given by County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris and community partners will announce the 2017 Family of the Year.
By raising awareness about sexual abuse, physical violence and neglect, Player hopes the event will incentivize members of the community to become proactive in addressing the risk factors of child abuse and refrain from waiting until the abuse becomes more serious to intervene and make a difference.
“Everybody thinks abuse happens somewhere else,” he said. “One in four girls are sexually abused before they turn 18 — that’s your neighbor, daughter, sister, it’s a far bigger problem than people give it attention.”
Making positive change
Through various local initiatives, including Klamath Works, Klamath Promise and Healthy Klamath, Ken Morton, executive director of CARES, said the community is beginning to realize the effects of “bad health numbers and child abuse numbers,” and is coming together to make a positive change in healthy habits and child welfare.
“The fabric of our community is fractured at different levels, but these initiatives are designed to give people an opportunity to truly do something about it,” he said. “It will create opportunities and a healthy community in the future, which will bring child abuse numbers down.”
The subject of child abuse was a difficult topic to speak out about 10 years ago, Morton said, but the community has “begun to turn a corner” and the child abuse reporting rate has increased by 200 percent in Klamath County over the past 10 years.
As part of the awareness campaign for Child Abuse Prevention Month, Susan Heitkamp, family support specialist with KLCAS said the group will promote ending child neglect and strengthening families.
Pamphlets demonstrating how to recognize the signs and symptoms of neglect and maltreatment will be available at the event and also at numerous local businesses and community organizations.
“Our message is one of hope,” Heitkamp said. “The purpose is to go beyond just awareness of child abuse, we want to strengthen families and make people more aware of how they can help. The event is a celebration of what we’re doing in the community and what we can add.”
For the month of April, pinwheel gardens have been planted at the Klamath County Fairgrounds and outside City Hall. Blue pinwheels are the national symbol for child abuse prevention.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the message of hope and how we can strengthen families and overcome this problem that we have throughout the nation and the world,” she said. “If we stand together and pay attention to what’s going on in families and people around us, we can become part of the solution.”
If You Go
What: Day of Hope, a community event to raise awareness about child abuse. Event will feature student musical performances, educational speakers and healthy snacks.
When: 1 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Sugarman’s Corner, at North Sixth and Main streets downtown