Elkhart child abuse cases decline while state rates rise

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Children at Elkhart's Beardsley Elementary left an assembly today with an important message...That people care about them.

This was all part of CAPS 2018 Children's Rally.

"The percentage of children entering the system in Elkhart County is lower than it is throughout the rest of the state and throughout much of the country," Elkhart County Juvenile court Magistrate Deborah Domine told a crowded gym of students.

Impressive statements were met with blank stares from the audience. To be fair, that information was probably a little more suited for adults.

"Do you think they really got the point?" Our reporter asked.

"Probably not." Domine answered.

The magistrate let kids know that they live in one of the best places for kids with only 1500 child abuse cases being heard in the last year.

"Since 2008 the state rate of child abuse has increased by nearly 50 percent," CAPS CEO Candy Yoder said. "While in Elkhart County, our rate continues to decline by 2 percent. That's an incredible difference."

Elkhart County is attributing all of this success to after school programs and things that get kids involved.

"Boys and Girls Club today celebrates the 5000 children that are members here in Elkhart County," Boys and Girls Club CEO Kevin Deary said.

Even though the county is doing well, it's not perfect. That's why these kids are being told to go out into the world and make it the best they can.

"Truly they are going to be in charge of this world before we know it," Domine said. "And they have a chance of making it better."

But this message isn't just for kids. Outside, pinwheels are scattered around to remind adults that there are children being abused, and they need to take responsibility as well.

"When you are in a situation as an adult and you think you're going to be angry, or you are angry, get out of there," Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese said. "Don't leave that child alone. Be certain that there is someone there that can care for that child, but, do not, under any circumstances harm a child."

The county says there is no single plan that can be put into action to reduce the numbers further- it takes a community effort.

"Know the kids in your neighborhood," Domine said. "And if somebody needs help, mentor them. If somebody needs help, call the police. Make sure you're involved. That's what communities are about. It's not about turning the other way and ignoring the problem. It's about identifying the problems and fixing them."

During the rally, Mayor Neese, once again, declared April 2018 to be child abuse prevention month.

If you know someone who needs help, there are resources at http://www.elkhartcountyprosecutor.com/resources/child-abuse