Fred Johnson (St. Croix County Health and Human Service Director), one of the speakers at “Hands Around the Courthouse”. Submitted photo
Fred Johnson (St. Croix County Health and Human Service Director), one of the speakers at “Hands Around the Courthouse”. Submitted photo

Submitted by Laurie Diaby-Gassama, St. Croix County

HUDSON, WI – St. Croix County Citizen Review Panel hosted a “Hands Around the Courthouse” event on Tuesday April 16, 2019 at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson, Wisconsin.  Over 100 community members stood together at the event to help bring awareness of child abuse and neglect and other victims of crime.

The St. Croix County Citizen Review Panel is a group of citizen volunteers and professionals that meets regularly with a common interest in the prevention of child abuse and neglect.  Guest speakers at the event included:  Fred Johnson (Director of St. Croix County Health and Human Services), Scott Knutson (St. Croix County Sheriff), Pam Bellrichard (Victim Witness Department Manager), Hayley Konsela (Legal Advocate for TurningPoint), Ashley Bredeson (St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team) Sunshine (Bikers Against Child Abuse) and Sue Lindberg (St. Croix County Public Health and member of St. Croix County Citizen Review panel). 

Fred Johnson shared that the number of St. Croix County children needing out of home placement due to child abuse or neglect has increased from twenty three in 2013 to seventy-seven in 2018.    He added that there were four hundred twelve referrals to Child Protective Services in 2018 compared to three hundred in 2013.  Stating a significant cause for the increases has been parental substance abuse including methamphetamines.   There are currently twenty-seven licensed foster homes in the county with a need for more respite care providers.     

Sheriff Scott Knutson said that in 2018 there were six hundred ninety-five arrests for domestic violence adding that domestic violence is the single major precursor to child abuse and neglect. Over 700,000 children were abused nationally in 2018 and every day five children lose their lives because of child abuse or neglect in the United States.  “We can and must do better to ensure that all children are protected and given a safe, stable and nurturing environment.” Knutson said.

Sue Lindberg a member of the Citizen Review Panel concluded the event reminding everyone in attendance that it takes a village to raise a child.  She encouraged all to become more neighborly. Go for walks and meet your neighbors and the neighborhood children.  Offer help and support to families in need. Go visit the new neighbor who just moved in.  Bring them a plate of cookies or invite them over for coffee. Host a back-yard BBQ or potluck or just coffee and donuts in your driveway on a Saturday morning.  Have the neighborhood kids help you in your garden. Be a mentor for a child.  Volunteer at your local schools. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Help coach a youth team, be a 4-H, or Scout leader. Become informed of free services available to families such as the St. Croix Family Resource Center and Headstart and Early Headstart.  St. Croix County Services Center in New Richmond offers services for family members, friends and neighbors who are dealing with alcohol, drug related issues, or have mental health concerns. Offer to help them make an appointment or to drive them to their appointment. The number to call is 715-246-8255.  

Sue Lindberg said: “If you witness or suspect child abuse or neglect, report it to Child Protected Services at 715-246-8260 or call 911.  Reporting is confidential.  We all need to be advocates for children.”

For more information on the St. Croix County Citizen Review Panel, call 800-345-5104.