In April, the tribe will join many all across the country in advocating for the health and safety of children. April is recognized annually as Child Abuse Prevention Month; Tribal Services and fellow tribal departments will be teaming up to educate the community on child abuse and the services the tribe provides.
“Our goal is to have healthy members of the community and we have to work together to make that happen,” Loren Sekayumptewa Tribal Services director, said. “To serve and protect the vulnerable of the community and tribes … our wishes are we will realize children and people are important and invaluable; no one needs to go through abuse at any age.”
Sekayumptewa added that abuse and neglect is not only happening here in the local community, but it plagues many tribes across the country.
“Its not just Southern Ute it’s an commonality with Indian tribes,” he said. “We have a frequency of abuse, neglect and trauma.”
According to Mary Carter, Division of Social Services clinical supervisor, statistics show that incidents of child abuse are 2 to 5 times higher in the Native population. Which is an alarming statistic the tribe is trying to combat in its community of local natives.
The goal is always prevention, Carter said. And a big part of preventing abuse and trauma is education.
“It’s not always intentional, we do it because we don’t know any better,” Carter said about abuse. “As a community we all need to be educated.”
To help with education, the tribe and community, will be hosting the 2nd Annual Child Abuse Prevention Color Run. The run is focused on bringing awareness and sending a message of support. The run is open to the community and will start at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26 at the Ignacio Middle School.
In addition to the walk, Tribal Services will be hosting assemblies at the local schools to talk to the children about abuse.
Hosting these annual and monthly events are a great way to get the community involved, Sekayumptewa said. But he wants the community to know the services they provide exist year round.
Recently, the tribe has taken a big step in getting more funds to help with abuse and trauma. According to Carter, Chairman Clement J. Frost signed a contract with the State Department of Human Services to receive recurring funds that will go towards strengthening families and preventing abuse.
Funding will go towards many things including: expediting the process of moving foster children back home, therapeutic daycare and cultural classes for families and foster children, Carter said.
“We need the help of the families to help the kids … the kids need their family, ” she said.
Sekayumptewa agreed with Carter about the importance of family. Preventing abuse and neglect comes down to the family, he said.
“It comes down to how children are raised and brought up,” he said. “Getting parents to understand their roles and responsibilities … and to know that abuse is not acceptable.”
The tribe’s Family Group Decision Making program is set up to help the family members gain responsibility of their own issues, Sekayumptewa said. Giving the family a chance figure out the best way to address their issues without having to go to court.
Multiple departments within the tribe provide services to Native Americans of all tribes. Tribal Services is one of those departments, providing core family support to a wide variety of people from the youth to the elderly. Services include emergency family services, elder services, social services, transportation, food distribution and vocational rehab.
“We’re looking to plan expansion to bring more services to the Southern Ute Reservation and to others who receive services here,” Sekayumptewa said. “It seems like we have a more comprehensive approach and I’m feeling good about that.”
“We get great support from tribal leadership … I’m thankful for the sincere support and scrutiny they give us,” Sekayumptewa said. “I’m very appreciative of the staff and service providers.”
If you have more questions about abuse or questions about programs provided you can contact Mary Carter at 970-563-0209.
You can also call 1-844-CO-4-Kids to report child abuse or neglect.