Rutland business, child advocates partner to prevent child abuse - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland business, child advocacy group partner to prevent child abuse

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Some high-profile cases have put the problem under the microscope recently and with April being child abuse awareness month, a Rutland group is trying to prevent another child from being hurt.

Candace Munson owns and operates Head over Heels gymnasium in Rutland. With thousands of children coming through her gym annually she is educating her staff about spotting the signs of child abuse, which is crucial. She requires all employees to enroll in Rutland's Child First Advocacy Center's Darkness to Light program.

"We're very committed to the safety of the kids in our gym, 100 percent committed, and it was additional education that our instructors were able to receive to make sure they had the information they needed," said Munson.

Head over Heels and The Child First Advocacy Center recently partnered on an open gym day to raise funds to help combat child abuse. The center sees about 130 to 150 cases annually in Rutland County and the event brought in almost $1,000 in one day to help kids who are in recovery from abuse participate in confidence building athletic activities. Brittany Parker is a case worker and victim advocate with Child First.

"The child is the most important thing to every person involved in investigating these abuse cases and first and foremost we want the safety of the child to be our top priority," said Parker. 

Child abuse and the role of investigators was spotlighted earlier this year with the death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon of Poultney, who police say died of blunt force trauma to the head. The investigation is ongoing. Her stepfather, 31-year-old Dennis Duby, is charged with second-degree murder. For advocates, dialogue about how to prevent more cases like this is ongoing and the best-case scenario is to not have abuse occur in the first place.

"Prevention is the key in a community to putting an end to child abuse," said Parker.

She says that means increasing conversation about a subject that many don't want to talk about and educating people on how to spot the signs of a child who may be getting abused. 

Munson is a busy business owner herself and sees parents with fast-paced lives daily.

"I believe, we move so fast that we forget to take a look at our children," said Munson.

Munson and Parker join others trying to put an end to child abuse in thinking that although April's Child Abuse Awareness Month is a great time to highlight the issue, we can always use reminders to stop, take a moment and talk to children about what is going on in their world.

Some signs of possible child abuse are changes in behavior, sleeping more, sleeping less or regressive behavior like an older child wetting their bed. Child First offers free programs to educate anyone who is interested on fighting child abuse. For more on Child First Advocacy Center free programs to educate anyone who is interested in fighting child abuse click here.

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