Navajo Nation launches Child Abuse Prevention Month.

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First lady and Miss Navajo Nation join the efforts to raise awareness

Staff reports

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation first lady Vikki Shirley continued her advocacy on behalf of child abuse prevention and domestic violence prevention by helping to kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 6.

Shirley and Miss Navajo Nation Jocelyn Billy joined marchers who walked from the Karigan Building in St. Michaels to the flea market area in Window Rock to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month on the Navajo Nation.

''The steadily rising incidence of child abuse and neglect is one of the sadder sociological trends now occurring across the Navajo Nation,'' Shirley said. ''It affects not only the Navajo Nation but is rising everywhere in Native America and the United States. If we truly believe our children are our future and the most precious part of our lives, we should become aware of what is happening to these innocent members of our society and do everything we can to protect them.''

The awareness march was organized by Nia Francisco, the community involvement specialist of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Department of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services.

''There are choices and alternatives to maltreatment of family members before it happens,'' Francisco said. ''Child abuse is 100 percent preventable when we are proactive and have alternatives to our actions.''

According to 2004 figures, the latest available from the Social Services Division, every month:

* Nearly 17 Navajo children are abandoned.

* More than 56 Navajo children are neglected.

* More than 47 Navajo children are sexually abused.

* More than 68 Navajo children are physically abused.

* More than 13 Navajo children are involved in domestic violence incidents.

* More than eight Navajo children are subject to medical neglect.

Child abuse is definitely on the increase in Indian country, not only here on Navajo,'' said Cora Maxx-Phillips, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services. ''Ninety percent almost always results from alcohol and drug usage. With meth, it's causing more problems out there in the community. We're dealing with the drug-endangered children now where adults are making methamphetamine right there in the home and children are exposed to chemicals and fumes that can kill. It's a never-ending cycle.

It's continuous.''

She said the division has drafted a plan to merge its efforts with Navajo Law Enforcement to pinpoint high-risk Navajo communities and create a mobilization plan to attack the problem.