Study says Abuse Against Children is Up in ND - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Study says Abuse Against Children is Up in ND

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Some startling numbers to tell you about. 9 out of every 1,000 kids in North Dakota were abused in 2012. That amounts to about 7,000 children in one year. All of this information is according to a study known as Kids Count, conducted at NDSU. The numbers of abuses reported are part of the story but the people who deal with the issue of child abuse know how real the problem continues to be. Valley News team's Eric Crest shares their story.

At the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch in Fargo, Christina Hemmer knows that more reports of child abuse and neglect are being documented state wide. But there's no question in her mind the problem is greater than it's reported to be.

"How many kids I find out while there here were abused? It's not listed as a number there. It wasn't reported. It came out later," says Hemmer who's the Clinical Director at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.

Some of the explanations as to why abuse toward children is up include the possibility of a population change. North Dakota's the fastest growing state in the country.

"We've seen so many families come in whom this isn't their home state. So they don't have the connections with their communities like grandpa, grandma, aunts, and uncles to help," says Hemmer.

Because raising children is stressful, especially without the support you're used too.On top of that North Dakotan's are hard workers. Kids Count found that nearly 78% of kids 1 to 13 have both parents in the work force. That's the third highest proportion among states in the country.

"Their are a lot of people working low-paying jobs or working two jobs which allows the children to be home by themselves more and more. Or having to use more family support or daycare's or family friends," says Hemmer.

But one thing Hemmer says more people should know, is abuse doesn't always leave a mark.

"You can look for bruises and changes in behavior or eating and sleeping patterns. But it's the most simple question," says Hemmer.

It's talking with children. Asking a simple question, are you ok? Has something happened? That Hemmer says can open the gates of a terrifying but necessary conversation. A conversation she has with children too often involving missed chances for adults to ask kids if they're ok.

"It's amazing how many missed opportunities there were in the community. There was a teacher, there was a church member, there was a family friend. You peel it all back and you find a lot of missed opportunities," Hemmer says.

The biggest thing you can do as an adult to make sure children you care about aren't being abused is ask questions. Ask if they are o.k. and let them know they can trust you and can confide in you about anything. Another great tool is the phone number 2-1-1. There you'll find someone who can help answer tough questions and connect you with the right resources.

You can also check out this link for more resources, www.stopchildabusend.com

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