Last year, 113 children were abused in Clinton County.
Ninety-two of those children were sexually abused.
Twelve were physically abused.
Nine suffered both forms of abuse.
And those were only the cases that were reported.
Through sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment and many other forms, nearly 80,000 children fell victim to abuse in New York last year, according to the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
"I think if you're not in this line of work, you don't realize what the impact is and how many people's lives it actually affects," said Richelle Beach, executive director of the Clinton County Child Advocacy Center.
"You have to know the problem you're dealing with if you want to prevent it."
Of the child-abuse cases from 2011 in Clinton County, 100 percent of them involved a perpetrator the child knew, Beach said.
More than 50 percent of the abuse allegations involved a biological parent or relative.
Christine Deyys, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New York, said both risk and protective factors impact a child's likelihood of abuse.
Risk factors contribute to, but do not directly cause, child abuse. They can include social isolation in families, a parent's lack of understanding of a child's needs or development and parental stress.
Beach said child abuse is sometimes also a generational issue.
"Oftentimes, a parent has also been physically or sexually abused," she said. "It's about breaking the cycle."
Protective factors lessen a child's risk of being maltreated, Deyys said.
Parental employment, adequate housing and access to health care and social services are all seen as protective factors. And so are having nurturing parenting skills, stable family relationships and a supportive family environment.
But the protection of a child's life also comes from a supportive and responsible community.
"Prevention is a community effort," Beach said.
One of the community organizations helping to support families is the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country with its Family Connections Resource Center in Plattsburgh, Families R Us facility in Malone and Family Matters in Tupper Lake. It also subcontracts to Family First in Elizabethtown.
Jamie Basiliere, executive director of the council, said one of their services is primary prevention of child abuse.
Laurie Booth-Trudo, Family Connections coordinator, said the play groups offered at each location are development-based groups for children, but they are equally important for the parents.
"I think that's important because having a strong support system and knowing where you can find help when you need it, find support for various things, is key to child-abuse prevention," Booth-Trudo said.
"The greater network you have of resources, the more resiliency you have and the less likely you are to go to the lowest common denominator (abuse)."
Another program the council offers is Parents Anonymous, an "open-ended, ongoing, confidential parenting-support group," Basiliere said.
A nationally recognized parent-strengthening program, Parents Anonymous gives parents the opportunity to talk about the stresses and strains of the job. Booth-Trudo said the group works on problem-solving, coming up with new strategies, hearing ideas and networking.
The program has been statistically shown to reduce child-maltreatment outcomes and risk factors for children and to increase protective factors.
"Seeking support is a sign of strength in the Parents Anonymous model," Basiliere said.
Many families in Clinton County are also supported by the Early Advantages program at Behavioral Health Services North.
Early Advantages provides in-home support and services that families can use to raise happy and healthy children.
Program Manager Esther Piper said Early Advantages family-assessment workers screen all new mothers in the county each year and decide through a series of questions and an initial evaluation if the family would benefit from the program.
If the family is a positive screen, they are often given the option to take part in the home-visitation program with family-support workers.
"Our participants are in the program not because they know they abuse or could abuse their children, but because the activities and teaching we provide during home visits would make them the best parents they can be," Piper said.
"And that is how prevention starts."
The program reaches about 100 families a year. Piper said the Early Advantages method is strength-based; they always focus on what the parent is doing well.
"If a mom didn't experience that as a child, she can see the difference," she said.
"We are here before anything happens."
But even with the services provided by the council and BHSN, children are still abused in the North Country.
If a Clinton County child discloses that he or she has been abused, Beach and other members of the Community Team Responding or Advocating for Kids, or CTRAK, are there to make the reporting and recovery process as painless as possible.
"The purpose of the Child Advocacy Center is to decrease trauma to the child by having a family-friendly interviewing site and to have kind of a collaborative effort to deal with the child and the family," Beach said.
CTRAK — a multidisciplinary team that includes law enforcement, the Advocacy Center, the District Attorney's Office, medical personnel, mental-health personnel and Child Protective Services — utilizes the center as a focal point for investigations, evaluations, treatment and prosecution of child-abuse cases.
"This (multidisciplinary team) is to get everyone together to streamline things," New York State Police Investigator Scott Hite said.
Children ages 3 to 18 come to the center with a non-offending parent.
Before the center existed, abused children carried the burden of having to tell their story countless times to the many teams involved, Hite said. The key to the center is that it gives the child the opportunity to tell their story just once or twice.
The room in which the roughly hour-long interview is held and the rest of the facility is friendly and comfortable, with toys and bright-colored murals donated by an area resident.
Beach said her vision for the center is for it to feel like a house. Hite called it a "peaceful environment."
Once the interview is finished, the team immediately works together to evaluate and determine what the next step will be, Hite said, and they sit down with the non-offending parent to create a safety plan for the child.
HAPPY, HEALTHY, SAFE
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when organizations and communities put special focus on the issue that plagues children throughout the world year-round.
"We are responsible for this community, and we are responsible for our children," Piper said. "And if we want this world to keep going as good as it has been for us, we need to be part of it."
Whether they are reaching out to new parents, helping them deal with stress or working with children who have fallen victim to abuse, the services in Clinton County work to make child abuse a thing of the past.
"We are three very different types of programs, but our goal is the same," Piper said. "Our goal is children being raised happy, health and safe."
Email Rebecca Webster at: email@example.com