Montezuma County Student Mural Targets Child Abuse

5/11/2021
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A team of high school students volunteered to paint a mural to raise awareness about child abuse in Montezuma County and to encourage residents to report their suspicions if they believe a child is suffering from maltreatment. Sponsored by Farmers Insurance Michalak Agency and Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado

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A team of Montezuma County high school students hope a new mural will raise awareness about the importance of reporting suspicions of child abuse to authorities. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Farmers Insurance, the Michalak Agency, and the Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Montezuma County has one of the higher rates of confirmed child abuse cases in Colorado, and a group of high school students wanted to do something about it. The students are members of the Child Abuse Prevention Society, a program started by the Child Maltreatment Prevention Action Team, a multi-agency effort to raise awareness about child abuse and to lower the incidence of child maltreatment in Southwest Colorado. According to the Colorado Children's Campaign, Montezuma County reported nearly 15 substantiated cases of child abuse per thousand children in 2018, compared with the statewide rate of 9 1/2 cases per thousand children. Montezuma has the 15th highest rate of substantiated cases of child abuse out of 57 Colorado counties, and rates have more than doubled during the past 10 years. That's why the student group wanted to paint the mural. The 1700 square foot mural shows two hands holding, with the message, "Imagine a world where all children thrive." Children's handprints border the mural.

I mean, people are going to be seeing this. They're going to be walking by. We want to spread awareness about child abuse and the issue it is and our county, but we also want to do it in a way that inspires hope.

A QR code in the bottom right-hand corner links to a list of community resources, information about child abuse, how to recognize the signs, and where to file a report if you suspect a child is suffering from maltreatment.

Some of the physical indicators can include bruising where the child, the story that the child tells when you ask about it, doesn't really seem like it makes a lot of sense. It can be not feeling comfortable changing for physical education, maybe lack of bladder control, acting out. And, so, stuff like acting out, it's important to just ask the kid "Hey, is there something going on?" instead of just getting them in trouble. Because a lot of times these kids have a lot going on at home and it comes out as behavioral issues. So, just questioning and being there for children is really one of those factors that helps improve resiliency in the longterm.

Spahn said that the CAPS students worked two months on an educational campaign to support children, and chose the mural as a way to inspire change. By ending child abuse, students said they hoped to create a healthier community for themselves and all Montezuma County residents.

So, people who experience maltreatment when they're younger tend to be at a higher risk for mental health issues later down the line. There are higher incarceration rates. And, abuse is a cycle, so the sooner that we can break that cycle of abuse and protect the children who we can keep our eyes on today, the sooner that we can protect the children of tomorrow.

The mural is on the southwest corner of Market Street and Montezuma Avenue, and faces North. The students are from Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos. They completed the mural earlier this month. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network, serving Montezuma, San Miguel and LaPlata counties in Southwest Colorado, and San Juan County in Northwest New Mexico. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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