Child abuse prevention advocates met with the leader of the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City Thursday, April 28, 2016, to mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The group met in the Relief Society Building on Temple Square.
“We feel very strongly about this issue and have tried to put resources in place that will address the needs of children who find themselves victim to [abuse],” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, who oversees more than a half a million teenage girls ages 12–17 around the world. “It should never happen, but when it does, we hope we can provide the resources to help children heal.”
Sister Oscarson said the Church has put resources in place to help children who have been abused, including a 24-hour hotline that can put leaders in touch with a counselor. Safeguards have also been put in place in the Church’s youth programs, including a requirement to have two leaders present during activities.
Sister Oscarson presented a $100,000 donation to Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, the national association and accrediting body for children’s advocacy centers, and a $25,000 check from the Church to Susanne Mitchell, director of the Children’s Justice Centers in Salt Lake County.
The money will be used to help families heal from abuse at children’s advocacy centers in the U.S. and at more than 20 centers in Utah.
“One of the things that we’ve been heavily focused on the last few years is ensuring the children are getting the mental health treatment they need to heal,” said Huizar. “The good news is that kids can recover from abuse.”
“This is extraordinary,” said Mitchell as she accepted the donation for Utah’s centers. “It really honors the work that we do. It really shows the community that it takes a community to address this problem. We all need to work together and I feel such harmony in our efforts that take us further than we could possibly go alone.”
“This is a very significant year for Children’s Justice Centers in Utah. We’re celebrating 25 years,” said Tracey Tabet, the administrator of the Children’s Justice Center program of the Utah State Attorney General’s Office.
A year ago, Sister Oscarson and other Church leaders toured the Children’s Justice Center in Salt Lake City and made a donation to help families affected by child abuse.
The Children’s Justice Center is a place where families who have experienced abuse can go to receive access to resources such as counseling, information about legal services, law enforcement support and information to help them overcome abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. The awareness campaign is organized by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
There are nearly 800 children’s advocacy centers in the U.S. Utah opened its first center in 1991 in Salt Lake County. The Utah Legislature granted administrative authority of the center to the Utah Attorney General’s Office in 1994. There are currently 22 locations statewide that assist 5,500 child victims every year. The Utah Children’s Justice Center program is affiliated with the National Children’s Alliance in Washington, D.C.
The Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center is administered by the district attorney. The program provides assistance with investigations involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, child homicide, domestic violence-related child abuse, abductions and shaken baby syndrome.