Child abuse is alive and thriving in Utah County, and ignoring it won't solve the problem, say members of the Utah County Child Abuse Council.

The council, previously known as the Utah County Inter-Agency on Sexual Abuse and Assault, was renamed in January and has since focused its efforts on increasing public awareness about child abuse. The council is the local representative for the Utah Chapter of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse.Council members gathered Thursday to name "Utah County Child Advocates of the Year" and honor them for their community contributions.

Named as co-child advocates of the year were Karen Hahne, founder of Kids on the Move, an Orem preschool for handicapped children; and Margaret Ullmann, a Child Abuse Council volunteer secretary who chairs the council's subcommittee on education and prevention.

"We felt that by starting to give recognition to those working hard in behalf of children, we also communicate the message that we value children," said Laura Blanchard, council chairwoman. She said the award will be given annually.

The council also honored six others who were finalists for the advocate award: Jini Roby, founder and former director of the Utah Valley Family Support Center; Nancy Willes, children's program coordinator for the Center for Women and Children in Crisis; Victoria Anderson, director of Public Services for the Alpine School District and therapist at Timpanogos Community Elementary School in Provo; Cathy Tooke, delivery nurse at Utah Valley Mental Health Center; Connie C. Parsons, outstanding teacher at Rock Canyon Regional Medical Center who provides special education services for young parents; and Marjan Martin, social worker for the Provo School District and Utah Social Services.

Blanchard said those honored by the council have made a "positive difference" in the lives of many local children. But, she said, much work must still be done.

"One of our major projects is to promote public awareness that child abuse does exist in Utah County," she said. "We feel like we're reaching people, but obviously we have a long way to go. It is an ongoing concern."

The Child Abuse Council is a non-profit organization that comprises interested citizens and representatives from private treatment centers and state and local agencies. According to council literature, the council "functions as a coordinating council with the objective of facilitating a unified prevention, prosecution, investigation and treatment approach in child-abuse cases."

Through its prevention, treatment and investigation/prosecution subcommittees, Blanchard said, the Child Abuse Council attempts to "fill in the gaps" by coordinating services and promoting public awareness.

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Helping abused, abusers

By coordinating services of local agencies and professionals, the Utah County Child Abuse Council works to see that victims and perpetrators of abuse get the help they need.