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Emma's House Director Val Widmer was happy to learn recently that Canine Companions for Independence had selected the Hamilton-based children's advocacy center to receive one of the national organizations specially trained dogs to assist in forensic interviews of abused and neglected children.

Perry Backus

Child abuse isn’t an easy subject.

Over the next two weeks, Ravalli County residents will take on the issue while participating in a series of events sponsored by Emma’s House Children’s Advocacy Center.

“As adults, all of us have a responsibility for the protection of children,” said Emma’s House CAC Prevention Coordinator Kiersten Schmitt. “Child abuse is something that people don’t want to hear about. We are trying to build a community resilience toward this type of abuse so we can protect our children in every way possible.”

The effort will get some significant support Thursday night, April 14, when Montana Attorney General Tim Fox will join local child abuse survivor, Tara Walker Lyons, in the first of three child abuse prevention trainings.

“We were absolutely ecstatic when we learned the attorney general wanted to speak at our event,” Schmitt said. “He is very supportive of the work being accomplished at children’s advocacy centers.”

Lyons has become a well-known advocate for the development of a school-based curriculum to teach youngsters about inappropriate touch in Montana.

“We are really excited to have Tara speaking at our event,” Schmitt said. “People will hear about her experience on reporting her abuse when she was 12 years old to the sheriff in her small town and how that contrasts with how child abuse cases are treated today.”

The Thursday night event is open to parents, caregivers and the general public. It will be held at the Hamilton City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. Dinner will be provided. Childcare is available by request.

To register for any of the events, people can go to

“All the events are free,” Schmitt said. “If people could RSVP, even on the day of the event, it would be really helpful for us in planning for the food.”

On Thursday, April 28, Emma’s House is hosting a day-long training called “Let’s Keep Kids Safe.”

So far, about 50 people have registered for the event.

Most of those are teachers and counselors who are hoping to learn more about they can do to keep children safe.

“We have been doing mandatory reporter training in the schools this year,” Schmitt said. “We are striving to remove the barriers that keep teachers from reporting abuse.”

Some of those barriers include inadequate knowledge of symptoms or a lack of understanding of the process.

“What I tell teachers is they often see kids more than we do as parents,” Schmitt said. “While a parent might just write a behavior off as ‘that’s just the way little Alice works,’ an objective person like a teacher or counselor might be in a better position to question it.”

The all-day training program is designed to expand that prevention message, she said.

People will have two different opportunities to take advantage of the intensive training session.

The first session will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hamilton City Hall. A condensed version will be offered from 5:30 to 8:30 also on the same day.

Emma’s House is kicking off its recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month with a fundraiser at Backroad Cider tonight, Wednesday, April 13. Purse for the People will sell beautiful purses and donate the proceeds to Emma’s House.

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at 98 Marcus St.

On Saturday, May 7, Emma’s House will host its annual “We Care About Kids Bike Parade.” That event will get underway at 10:30 a.m. at Emma’s House, 800 N. Second St., Hamilton

For more information on any of the events, call Schmitt at 363-7216.

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at



Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.