Tonight's Candlelight Vigil to shine a light on child abuse

Skye Kinkade

What do you do if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected? Often, according to Jill Phillips of the Siskiyou County Community Services Council, without solid evidence, we don’t do anything.

“People aren’t sure what to say or do,” said Mount Shasta Community Resource Center executive director Bliss Bryan. “We really want to change that and get the entire community involved with preventing child abuse.”

That’s the focus of this Thursday’s Blue Ribbon Candlelight Vigil, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall Plaza in Mount Shasta.  This is the second year the MSCRC?will be hosting the event to recognize those who have experienced abuse and to bring awareness to the existence of child abuse in Siskiyou County.

Though some might be surprised at the statistic, Phillips said Siskiyou County’s substantiated child abuse rate is the second highest in California, just behind Del Norte. This means three of every 100 children living in Siskiyou County experience child abuse or neglect, according to the Child Welfare Services Reports for California.

To combat child abuse and neglect, the county’s 10 Community Resource Centers, with support from First 5 and the Community Services Council, provide many programs to local communities, including parenting classes, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, community outreach activities,  and more.

“Most severe neglect is related to substance abuse issues,” said Bryan, though she added there’s no one specific cause of Siskiyou’s inflated child abuse statistics.

“I?think there’s a lack of understanding about the real need we have for child abuse prevention here in Siskiyou County,” Bryan said. “In order to get a handle on it, we’re going to need accessible alcohol and drug counseling, as well as mental health services and local support for families and parents.”

Bryan said bringing families together and building community often prevents child abuse and neglect. Even Family Fun Nights and other fun activities offered through the Community Resource Centers help people learn to be better parents and improve the health of the community in general. Families who are engaged and out of isolated situations are more likely to have healthy relationships, Bryan said.

“This is a very complex issue,” said Phillips. “It’s very, very clear: agencies cannot stop child abuse alone. We need the help of the community.”

“It takes a village,” said Bryan.

At Thursday’s Vigil, Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus will speak about local statistics and give some background on child abuse rates in the county. Also, a community member will speak about experiencing and recovering from child abuse.

After the speakers are through, Bryan said everyone will light candles in support of those who have been impacted by child abuse.

For more information about helping families cope with difficult situations or what to do if you suspect child abuse or neglect, contact your local community resource