ELKHART — While the number of child abuse cases in Elkhart County is decreasing, there is still work to be done.
According to statistics from Child and Parent Services (CAPS) of Elkhart County, the number of child abuse cases reported in Elkhart County has dropped 37.4 percent since 2008. Statewide, the number of child abuse cases has fallen just 0.8 percent
CAPS celebrated this progress at the annual Pinwheels for Prevention Candlelight Celebration on Tuesday, April 8, at the Joy Rose Center.
The event was one of several held across the state Tuesday evening by the Indiana Department of Child Services in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention month.
Miss Indiana USA 2014 Mekayla Diehl, an Elkhart native, has firsthand experience with the county's foster care system.
"When I was 8 years old, I was sexually abused by a family friend," Diehl said.
Deihl said she didn't realize something was wrong with the situation until a woman visited her third grade classroom to talk about appropriate and inappropriate forms of touching.
After she told her mother about the abuse, her mother left. With her father in prison, Deihl and her brother entered the foster care system and were put in the care of their grandmother.
She said she has since forgiven her abuser and is using her experiences to help others and bring attention to the issue to child abuse.
"Now, at 25, I want to share my story," Deihl said. "I want to be a voice for every boy or girl who couldn't speak."
Magistrate Deborah Domine commended CAPS and the other people who work to help prevent child abuse in Elkhart County for all their hard work.
"The system doesn't change lives," she said. "People change lives. You change lives."
The children who pass through Domine's courtroom come in through "different doors," she said, some as children in need of services and others as juvenile offenders, "but every one of those children is important and every one of those children deserves our best work."