COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - If you've noticed a big jump in cases of child abuse in El Paso County, you're not alone.
Experts told Target13 Investigates it?s a real trend, and many of those cases are coming out of our military community.
Now, El Paso County and local programs are reminding the community that there is help to avoid becoming a statistic.
El Paso County consistently has the highest number of child abuse case in the state of Colorado. Last year the number of cases was 12, 604, but this year the projected number is 13,000.
County officials tell Target 13 Investigates they are seeing a pattern. Many of the little victims have young parents between the ages of 18 and 25.
?We are working with other nonprofit agencies to help educate parents, specifically young parents and those military families, to not hurt their children,? said County Commissioner and Department of Human Services liaison Sallie Clark
Cases involving military families are up to 9 percent. That's almost double the rise from last year.3
Advocacy centers attribute that jump to stressors common in the military community.
?In the military population there was always a problem because of the stressors, and that was when we weren't at war. Now that we are at war, and we've got these soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan for the fourth or fifth time, there is a high contribution factor to abuse occurring,? said Sandra Hernandez, the executive director of Centro de La Familia.
Centro de la Familia, or family center, is an advocacy group that specializes in counseling the Hispanic community. The group says the best way to prevent tragedy is to take parenting classes. The ones they offer are free or low cost.
Hernandez said that parenting is not something that comes second nature, and that parenting classes can benefit anyone.
?It's not instinctual, absolutely not. It is something that needs to be learned,? said Hernandez.
So far this year, five El Paso County confirmed deaths have been children, and all of the children were under 3 years old.