National Child Abuse Prevention Month kicks off April 1
Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Polk County will begin celebrating National Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1 at 11 a.m. with a child abuse awareness walk at Stearns Park. The walk will take place in Stearns Gym in case of inclement weather.
Mary Edwards, director of Be A Voice 4 Kids, will be present at the walk. Edwards started her nonprofit in 2014 and is the newest member of the Polk County Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team.
Being a survivor of child abuse herself, Edwards said after 30 years of being afraid she determined she was “either going to be part of the solution or part of the problem.” She created Be A Voice 4 Kids to spread awareness of the dangers of child abuse.
“There are 400,000 children that are sexually abused each year nationwide,” Edwards explained. “That’s one in every 10 children. That’s one in every four girls and one in every six boys. Ninety percent of cases occur by someone they think they can trust. That could be teachers, neighbors or community leaders.”
The Polk County Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team consists of 24 individuals from across the county responsible for promoting a community-wide approach to child abuse, neglect and dependency. Established in 1991 by the North Carolina General Assembly, the team has just recently transitioned from being solely a child fatality prevention team in 2013 to include protection for children.
Each county established their own teams in 1993, and the team assesses and determines any deficiencies or gaps in providing child abuse services by public agencies.
Lou Parton, director of Polk County’s Department of Social Services, said the most common gap in services that could have prevented the mistreatment of a child is substance abuse in the last year. The Polk County Community Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team will present their findings for 2015 to the Polk County Board of Commissioners on April 4 during their monthly meeting.
Edwards and her Be A Voice 4 Kids nonprofit organization are also sponsoring Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training sessions to teach the community the five steps of preventing child abuse throughout the month of April. The “Stewards of Children” program began in 2005 by Darkness to Light.
The cost for each person is $10 and these classes will be held April 5 and 12 at the Mill Spring First Baptist Church and April 14 and 21 at the Mill Spring Volunteer Fire Department from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
At the end of each two-hour session, participants in the class will receive a certificate proclaiming they are a “steward of children.” The classes will teach participants the facts about child abuse, how to minimize the opportunity for child abuse, how to talk about it, how to recognize the signs and how to react responsibly.
“The mission statement of Be A Voice 4 Kids is to educate, prevent, heal and end child sexual abuse,” Edwards said. “Through spiritual strength, peer support and inspiration, we can do that. This is in the name of God.”
Edwards said she became the facilitator for the Darkness to Light program after following former facilitator for Polk County, Kiesa Kay, around to obtain information pertaining to the program after attending training in Charleston.
Michael Crater is the director of Polk County’s Emergency Medical Services and co-chair of the Polk County Child Fatality and Prevention Team. Crater and the Polk County EMS will be holding a Child Safety Day on April 28 in the parking lot of the Bi-Lo in Columbus from 3 to 6 p.m. as part of the efforts to raise awareness for prevention. Crater said the county has seen an average of 250 cases a year.
“The biggest thing we want to raise awareness for is the walk happening at Stearns Park on April 1,” Crater said. “Anyone can come out and walk, and we will be giving away blue light bulbs to put on your porch or stickers to place on your vehicles to raise awareness too.”
Polk County’s EMS will have fire trucks and EMS personnel in the parking lot of Bi-Lo to help raise awareness of child safety from 3 to 6 p.m.
“You can come out and have your child seat installed and inspected for safety, for example,” Crater explained.
Both Crater and Parton were present at the March Columbus Town Council meeting to issue a proclamation on behalf of the Polk County Community Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team.
The proclamation detailed the intention of the awareness month as being targeted towards child abuse prevention being a community responsibility.
Various county departments, including the Department of Social Services and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, will also be setting up “gardens” of blue pinwheels to help raise awareness, and according to BJ Bayne with the sheriff’s office, this is an effort to see the whole county go with a blue theme in support of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Pinwheels can be bought for individual gardens through the Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina organization by contacting them at 919-829-8009 or visiting their website at www.preventchildabusenc.org.
“Most departments ordered pinwheels to put out in support of our county going blue to raise awareness to stop child abuse,” Bayne said. “We hope to see local business owners going with a blue theme in their businesses for the month of April.”
To get registered for one of the Stewards of Children training classes, contact Mary Edwards at 828-817-4267.
Child Abuse Awareness Walk
Friday, April 1 at 11 a.m.
Stearns Park, Columbus
For information: 828-817-4267
Darkness to Light Training
Tuesday, April 5 & 12 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Mill Spring First Baptist Church
Thursday, April 14 & 21 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Mill Spring Volunteer Fire Department
For information: 828-817-4267
Child Safety Day
Thursday, April 28, 3 – 6 p.m.
Bi-Lo parking lot, Columbus
For information: 828-894-3067
To order Pinwheel Gardens
919-829-8009 or preventchildabusenc.org
Town of Columbus’ Child Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation
WHEREAS, preventing child abuse and neglect is a community problem affecting both the current and future quality of life of Polk County; and
WHEREAS, nearly 130,000 children in North Carolina are reported as abused or neglected every year, approximately 250 of those each year are reported from Polk County; and
WHEREAS, every child deserves to be loved, cared for, secure, and safe; It is the responsibility of our communities to promote every child’s right to a safe, happy and healthy environment; and
WHEREAS, child abuse prevention is a community responsibility and finding solutions depends on involvement among all people; and
WHEREAS, we must make every effort to promote programs that benefit children and their families through education and awareness; and
WHEREAS, effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships among agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community; and
WHEREAS, child abuse and neglect not only cause immediate harm to children, but also can increase the likelihood of criminal behavior, substance abuse, health problems and risky behavior; and
WHEREAS, all citizens should become involved to provide safe, nurturing environments for children in all areas of their lives – at home, in school, and in the community – offering them the opportunity to grow up to be caring, contributing members of the community;
THEREFORE, I, Eric McIntyre, Mayor of the Town of Columbus, do hereby proclaim “April 2016 as Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Month” and encourage the citizens of Columbus to observe the day in ways appropriate to its importance and significance.
Proclaimed this the 17th day of March 2016.