A new mural in Cortez will symbolize the importance of protecting and supporting children in the community.
The mural is being created by the Child Abuse Prevention Society, composed of local high school students. It will be painted this week by volunteers on an alley wall facing Montezuma Park.
During a meeting with Montezuma County Commissioners last week, the student group said the goal is to raise awareness about the problem of child abuse in Montezuma County, which in 2018 occurred at a higher rate than the state average.
According to the most recent Kids Count data, in 2018, the county reported 14.9 substantiated cases of child abuse per 1,000 children, while the statewide average was 9.5 cases per 1,000 children.
Breaking the silence about child abuse is a first step, said mural organizer Emily Spahn, abuse prevention educator for Team Up Americorps at the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center.
Child abuse and neglect is a pandemic, affecting one out of every seven children nationwide, studies show.
Children suffering from abuse are at increased risk to develop a wide range of mental and physical health problems, as well as substance abuse, according to a 2010 study by Kara R. Douglas published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
The 1,700-square-foot mural is the beginning of an educational campaign about child abuse and connects people to the resources that can help, Spahn said. The mural will have a QR code that links to a website with important child abuse information and resources.
“In addition to the art that is going up, people are invited to add their handprints to the mural to symbolize their dedication to child well-being,” Spahn said.
The high school students have been meeting regularly to figure out ways to combat the problem of child abuse, and have been presented their findings and plans to the community.
The difficult problem of child abuse is real, CAPS students said, and its stigma can be a hurdle for education and prevention.
During a recent presentation, a CAPS high school member who reads to kids stated that during reading sessions to children, she sometimes hears that some are hesitant to go home.
“School is the only place they feel safe,” she said.
The mural project is one piece of the Child Maltreatment Prevention Action Team education campaign. The effort is a collaboration between United Way of Southwest Colorado, Team UP Southwest Colorado, The Four Corners Child Advocacy Center, The School Community Youth Collaboration, The Montelores Early Childhood Council, The Pinon Project and Americorps.