Child abuse to get close look in Linn County

Sean C. Morgan

Child Abuse Awareness Month will kick off April 1 with a Child Abuse Prevention Summit in Lebanon, followed by events throughout Linn County.

Linn County is ranked 17th among Oregon counties for child abuse, said Jennifer Gilmore-Robinson, executive director for the ABC House in Albany. In 2014, Linn County had 363 confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in 437 separate incidents of abuse and neglect.

“Linn County is currently roughly in the middl in terms of the victim rate,” she said. “Although it is lower than past years, it is still very concerning.”

According to ABC House’s internal statistics for 2015, 456 children received child abuse assessment services, 38 percent of them referred from the Lebanon and Sweet Home areas.

Among them, 47.9 percent were referred for concerns of physical abuse, and 29.6 percent were referred for concerns of sexual abuse. Half were under the age of 7; 52 percent were girls; and 48 percent were boys.

Based on 2011 rates, about one in eight children will experience a confirmed case of child abuse or neglect by age 18, Gilmore-Robinson said. National estimates indicate that 1,500 children died of abuse and neglect in 2014. Some 70.7 percent were under the age of 3.

The summit kicks things from 9 a.m. To noon at the River Center in Lebanon. Guest speakers are Dr. Jeff Todahl and Phyllis Burkhurst of “90 by 30,” an initiative to reduce child abuse and neglect by 90 percent in Lane County by 2030.

The event is free, but those who plan to attend should register at ahead of time. A free “Darkness to Light” sexual abuse prevention and awareness training will be available following the conference.

The Linn County Child Abuse Network is organizing the summit. The Child Abuse Network represents a variety of agencies and organizations including the Linn County district attorney’s office; law enforcement agencies, including Sweet Home Police Department; the ABC House, health service organizations and Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children.

The agencies put the network together to “raise awareness of child abuse in our county,” said Greg Roe, executive director for United Way of Linn County, to help organizations and individuals fight child abuse in a systematic way.

The summit provides free training to train people to look for signs of child abuse and have the confidence to make that call, Riley said.

This sort of training is rarely free, Roe noted. The Linn County summit is funded by the Ford Family Foundation and will be run by the ABC House. Organizers would like to reach those who who work with children, but it is open to anyone who is interested.

“Everybody can do something, mentoring a young parent to creating a community watch group that really focuses on child abuse,” he said.

“What can individuals do to prevent child abuse in a positive way?” he asked. That comes down to the network’s theme this year, “Show a child they matter.”

Throughout the month, communities will plant pinwheel gardens. Family Tree is holding a county-wide diaper drive sponsored by Les Schwab Tire Center and Albany Downtown Association.

On April 7, ABC House will host a dinner at 5:30 p.m. in Albany. Tickets are free at the ABC House website,

The Sweet Home community will plant a pinwheel garden at noon on April 8 at Sweet Home Police Department, 1950 Main St. It will include brief presentations.

Walk a Mile begins at 10 a.m. on April 9 in Lebanon. Registration begins at 8 a.m. A celebration is scheduled at 11:30 a.m.

For every person the Linn County Child Abuse Network brings to help with a marathon in Corvallis on April 17, the event will donate $25 to the ABC House.

The ABC House, located in Albany, provides services to more than 3,700 people annually, including abuse assessments and medical consultation services to more than 500 children per year.

For more information about events and Child Abuse Awareness Month, contact Gina Riley at (541) 367-5181. The ABC House may be reached at (541) 926-2203.