National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and we are reminded that although the topic of child abuse and neglect may be difficult to talk about it is an important subject to be addressed.

Children are a gift from the creator and need to be honored and respected, as they are our future generations. According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association statistics, 405,000 American Indian children reside in the United States today, approximately 7 percent are at risk for abuse and neglect and 95 percent of those cases involve substance abuse.

Traditional teachings, values and family systems have the greatest power in preventing child maltreatment. Preventative strategies are imbedded in Native American culture in century’s old spiritual beliefs, child rearing methods, extended family roles and systems of bands and clans.

The Southern Ute Tribe has a population count of about 1500 in addition to the other federally recognized tribal members living in this community and surrounding area.

For the year 2012-2013, the Strengthening of the Family Preservation program reduced and prevented child removal drastically. There is also a decrease in referrals, which involve substance use that indicates fewer parents are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the natural stressors of parenting. The referrals that didn’t involve substance abuse were referred to Family Preservation services to strengthen the family.

It is not unusual to find children in Native American communities who are involved in founded cases to be placed with grandparents or with extended family members. Therefore, it can be seen that child abuse and neglect in Indian Country has far reaching impacts, which can threaten the very core of tribal serenity and tranquility.

Southern Ute Tribal Social Services with new leadership, desires to focus on lessening child abuse and neglect. Ann Hale, MSW, division head for Tribal Social Services stated, “this cannot be accomplished without the help of each and every Southern Ute tribal member.” Ms. Hale desires to keep Southern Ute families together and keep Southern Ute children in this community with their own families and/or extended relatives (bands).

Many tribes strive to preserve and protect children and honor elders of the tribes and nations of the people. Elders within every tribe desire for their children to live long, happy prosperous lives unto old age, said Loren Sekayumptewa, MSW, director of Tribal Services. Mr. Sekayumptewa has been in the field of Human Services for over 35 years and he has seen the devastating effects of what alcohol/substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse can do to our children and families and nations.

“To many times modern treatment modules research us, and look to modern methods of intervention to cure us, but healing must start with us,” Sekayumptewa said.

Family Preservation consists of Family therapist Betsy Beck, LMFT, newly hired family preservation coordinator Eve Presler, MA and clinical supervisor Conny Heischkel, LCSW, CAC III.

The emphasis is working with tribal members starting with early prevention/intervention through parenting education and family therapy. For referrals please call Conny Heischkel, LCSW, CAC III at 970-563-4731.

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