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Gov. Bill Richardson issued a proclamation naming April “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in an effort to address the approximate 30,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in New Mexico each year.
“Child abuse and neglect are serious problems and finding a solution depends upon the involvement of people within our community,” Richardson states in his proclamation. “During periods of economic challenges, families feel more vulnerable and as a result child abuse and neglect increase drastically.”
While child abuse may not be as prevalent in Los Alamos as in larger and poorer communities, it does exist and there have been cases in which children have been taken away from their parents due to abuse, said Counseling Center Director Cheryl Pongratz of the Los Alamos Family Council at 1505 15th St.
“We have people in anger management programs here at Family Council and I think every school counselor is aware of abuse cases,” Pongratz said. “Don’t ignore it – if a parent finds their child is driving them crazy or if they feel like hitting their child they should step back and assess the situation.”
Pongratz also discussed something she sees in the local community, which she calls “benign neglect.”
There’s nothing malicious about it – it’s just that we have a lot of parents who come home from work very tired and don’t have the energy to spend time with their children and the children tell us they feel neglected,” she said.
Pongratz suggests visiting the Family Strengths Network in the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive. The nonprofit organization has an extensive lending library of books on parenting as well as parenting classes.
“Their parenting classes cover all ages from infants and toddlers to elementary school age and adolescents,” she said. “It’s really important for a parent who has slapped their child really hard in anger to seek counseling. They need to seek help right away. It’s so hard for parents when their children are taken away because of abuse and this has happened a number of times in this community.”
Read the full story in Thursday's Los Alamos Monitor.