TWIN FALLS — St. Luke's is working to raise more awareness on child abuse during National Child Abuse Prevention Month so more people are able to recognize it.
The Twin Falls office of St. Luke's Children at Risk Evaluation Services (CARES) had seen 291 kids in 2020, compared to 2019 when they only saw 280.
“It’s a pretty horrible thing, so we all kind of wish it didn't happen," said Kathryn Reese, medical director for CARES. "It’s nice to have a time set aside just for the general population just to increase awareness of, yes it exists. How can I recognize it? What can I do about it?”
This year officials are even more determined to help in any way possible since the pandemic increased the number of children being abused because many kids have been isolated at home with their potential abuser.
In previous years, St. Luke's has hosted walks and rallies to try and raise more awareness. Instead, St. Luke's is finding other outlets.
“This year unfortunately we can’t do that so we’ve really kind of resorted to social media or these kinds of interviews where we're not able to socialize in numbers right now,” said Dr. Silvia Renova-Gaxiola, the program manager for CARES.
Dr. Renova-Gaxiola said CARES is still offering its "Stewards of Children" program, a two-and-a-half-hour preventative education training to teach people who work with kids to identify the signs of sexual abuse and how to respond.
The program is done in conjunction with the group Darkness to Light. The training is available through their website.
For people in the community who would like to show their support, there is a way to get involved, and that is by placing blue pinwheels on your property.
“They just signify the healthy, happy lives that all children deserve to have and unfortunately a lot don’t. So, that’s the national symbol for child abuse prevention,” said Renova-Gaxiola.
Since there are different forms of abuse and neglect, health officials want other potential signs to be known, rather than just bruising and other physical signs.
“A sudden change in behavior, doing poorly in school, and otherwise outgoing child being suddenly withdrawn, and silent and angry,” Reese said.
Health officials also encourage that anyone who suspects a child is suffering from some form of abuse or neglect to report it as soon as possible.