Child Abuse Prevention conference calls for more to take action

Now meeting for the 23rd year, the Community Response to Child Abuse Conference continues to bring in more people to Sioux Falls, over 430 in total.
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 6:20 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Organizations and individuals from all across South Dakota made their way to Sioux Falls Thursday, meeting and discussing plans to combat child abuse in the state. Not only are more resources and training needed, more people overall are needed to help work towards a solution.

Now meeting for the 23rd year, the Community Response to Child Abuse Conference continues to bring in more people to Sioux Falls, over 430 in total. That’s not because only now are more people stepping up to fight abuse, but that it will take folks from all walks of life to curb it.

Victor Vieth, a former prosecutor and now Chief Program Officer for the Zero Abuse Project, stepped up as the first keynote speaker of the conference. His message to those in attendance is for more education for people like teachers, doctors, and more to help better spot and prevent abuse.

“The biggest trend in the country is to realize that instead of simply educating folks once they’re out in the field, we need to improve undergraduate and graduate training, so that folks are better prepared to hit the ground running,” Vieth said.

Vieth said conferences like the Community Response to Child Abuse Conference are valuable in that they reenergize people on the front lines of fighting abuse, and they provide new guidance for those in trying to prevent cases in the first place.

“There’s so much that needs to be done, and none of us can do it all. But you come to a conference, and get a hundred good ideas, and you realize, ‘That idea, I could do.’ And the next thing you know, meaningful change is in play, and outcomes of children’s lives are improving,” Vieth said.

That’s an effort that’s echoed by South Dakota Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge Gregg Magera, who said better training for everyone who works directly or indirectly with children is needed if meaningful change is to happen.

“It’s an issue that affects all of us in South Dakota. Families, children are our most vital resource. It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but it’s one that all of us have to talk about,” Magera said.

Vieth said the trend of an abuse victim only getting help from one or two professionals needs stop. Instead he says that help should come from a number of different people, all with the training needed to make a meaningful difference.

“Child protection requires a holistic response. The abused child may need medical care, and may need mental health care. They may need social services, may need victim advocacy. Somebody’s going to have to be taking the case to court. And in some instances, they may need spiritual care,” Vieth said. “So everybody has to come together and do their part. If everybody does their part, the outcome of a child’s life is dramatically changed.”

Vieth said realistically, this effort to try and curb abuse should take at least another couple of decades, educating more people to spot and react to cases. But he said this fight will never be over, saying more will always need to be done.