SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Governor Spencer Cox has taken a major step to combat child abuse and neglect. This week, the governor officially declared April 2022 as Family Strengthening Month in Utah. 

According to the Department of Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) over 9,000 children in Utah were found to be victims of abuse and neglect in 2021. The organization reports that high stress, substance abuse, social isolation, and lack of support in parents are some of the most common risk factors associated with child abuse and neglect. 

“We need Utahns to continue to report abuse and neglect when they see it,” said Tracy Gruber, executive director of the Utah Department of Human Services, “and we must look at how we can strengthen families at a point before they reach that level of crisis where abuse and neglect occurs.”

Families who practice protective factors, like demonstrating strong social connections and attaining knowledge of child development, have an easier time navigating stressful times. As noted by government authorities, the DCSF has joined forces with United Way programs, Utah 211, and Help Me Grow Utah to launch a parent resources webpage to help families find services within their communities. 

Gruber, views the role of her agency as essential in strengthening community efforts. 

“When we look at prevention through a public health lens, it’s imperative that efficient physical and behavioral health services are available to the individuals and families who need them,” Gruber said.  “Building strong and resilient families will help us reach our vision that all Utahns  have the opportunity to live safe and healthy lives.”