Hamilton Mayor proclaims April as Child Abuse Prevention month

Ravalli Republic

Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf has proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, locally.

Farrenkopf cited that child abuse affects more than 3.2 million of our nation’s children annually and over 1,000 children locally.

“I urge all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, medical facilities, elected leaders and businesses to increase their participation in our efforts to support families, thereby preventing child abuse and strengthening the communities in which we live,” he said. “I also urge everyone to use this time to better understand, and recognize and respond to this grievous issue, and make a concentrated effort to make children our number one priority…”

Farrenkopf congratulated Emma’s House, Child & Family Services caseworkers and local law enforcement for their “continued success in helping families eliminate abuse from their lives.”

Kierstin Schmitt, prevention coordinator for Emma’s House, said while it is a nationally recognized designation the local action is unique in Montana.

“We see the proclamation as a giant step forward for Ravalli County and the Bitterroot Valley and we hope other cities and towns will do something similar,” Schmitt said. “We see it as a sign of the support that our community gives to our children and families especially those that struggle with abuse and neglect. We are honored to be a part of the work in providing prevention resources to our community.”

Emma's House, the Bitterroot Valley Children’s Advocacy Center, provides trainings for anyone that works with children – teachers, counselors and the general public.

“We provide trainings, resources and curriculum to teach identifying the signs and symptoms of abuse and how to best respond and report those findings,” Schmitt said.

Emma’s House is a charitable, not-for-profit organization funded by grants and private donations. The staff has been focused on moving to their new location at the Hamilton Carriage House at 310 N. Fourth Street. The 5,300 square feet building triples their space to meet their need for a trauma treatment center, counseling, and meeting and play space serving children younger than 18 who have experienced physical and sexual abuse throughout Ravalli County.

“We are in the new building, completely moved out of the other space,” Schmitt said. “We got our sign moved over and people can find us. We are up and running over here.”

The remodeling of the back building should be complete the end of April. It will become the counseling unit.

“There are three counseling spaces downstairs and offices for our counselors will be upstairs,” Schmitt said.

Val Widmer, executive director, said the staff is getting settled in to the new space.

“It is a great building and it is great to be here,” Widmer said.

Joni Lubke