LOGAN – The recent high profile child abuse case in Washington County by Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt have brought attention to crimes against children in Utah.

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently posted the number of cases that were reported in Utah from July 2022 to July 2023. There were 9,278 reported cases of child abuse or neglect during that year.

During that same period, there were 348 total confirmed (substantiated/supported) victims in Box Elder, Rich, and Cache counties combined.

DHHS wants the public to know the numbers are unacceptable and they are trying to do their best to reduce those numbers.

“This is a heartbreaking statistic that we find unacceptable, and they are committed to changing it,” a DHHS release said. “We would like to let people know they can help change these statistics in their own communities.”

Tracy Gruber, DHHS executive director, is concerned about the number of cases in the state.

“Child abuse and neglect is reduced in communities with strong families,” she said. “Sometimes life is stressful, and parenting is hard for everyone.”

She wanted to encourage neighbors and friends to reach out to people who may be experiencing tough times.

“Be someone a family can go to for help,” Gruber said. “Providing a safe place for people to turn during hard times could save a child’s life.”

Under the umbrella of DHHS, the Division of Child and Family Services works with communities to root out and prevent child abuse and neglect through their services.

There are evidence-based home visitation programs, crisis nurseries and school-based education presentations. 

Prevent Child Abuse Utah is a websites DHHS created to help people protect the state’s children. It promotes educational programs on abuse recognition and reporting for both children and adults.

Another group connected with DHHS that has an interest in strengthening families is Child and Family Services. Their focus is child safety and strengthening parents and caregivers who need help meeting their children’s needs. Their work is generally focused on interventions regarding child abuse and neglect.

DCFS asses reports of child abuse or neglect and assigns a caseworker to determine the best outcome for a child. Their goal is to unite and strengthen families.

At DCFS, their focus is child safety, and working to strengthen parents and caregivers who are otherwise unable to meet a child’s needs. The agency’s work is focused on effective interventions regarding safety issues related to children and families.

DCSF works with community partners to prevent child abuse and neglect through services including classes on parenting, evidence-based home visitation programs, crisis nurseries and school-based education presentations. 

The Mayo clinic offers suggestions for recognizing child abuse:

A child being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. The child may not want to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. That’s why it’s vital to watch for signs, such as:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • Sleep problems and nightmares
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. The presence of warning signs doesn’t mean that a child is being abused.

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