By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
Civic and community leaders gathered on the front lawn of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to publicly pledge themselves to the fight against child abuse on Thursday, April 7. Speakers included State Representative Dave Belton, County Commissioner Chairman Donald Harris, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, Protem Rutledge Mayor Brenda Thompson, and DFCS Director Cassandra Jones. Velde Hardy, Family Connection coordinator, orchestrated the event, which included a small garden of 200 blue pinwheels, to represent the 200 children in Morgan County who have experienced some form of abuse or neglect last year. Pinwheels are symbolic for the children who have experiences child abuse. “It’s uplifting symbolism. The harder the wind blows, the pinwheel still thrives,” said LaTonya Hamp, First Lady of New Enon Baptist Church in Madison“It’s the ideal symbol for children experiencing this. This is what some children do, they persevere despite the abuse and obstacles in their lives. They still try to bring joy and love.” “One child abused is one child too many,” said Hardy as she began Thursday morning’s ceremony. Child Abuse is a disturbing problem across the nation, state and right here in Morgan County.
According to the National KIDS Count Data Center, Georgia has fallen in the bottom 10 percent on national indicators related to the overall well-being of children and families in the past four years. Further analysis has shown that Morgan County had 69 substantiated incidents of child abuse and/or neglect cases in 2014, which is a 137 percent increase from substantiated cases in 2013. Some of the local programs that work to prevent child abuse in the county are: Morgan County First Steps Program, Parent Cafes, The Ferst Foundation, and Local Interagency Planning Team. Each civic leader vowed to use their position to prevent child abuse from occurring. Belton pointed to the nearly billion-dollar increase to Georgia education and to now nearly two-thirds of Georgia’s State Budget allocated for children, mostly in the arena of education. Belton also noted other recent laws passed to protect children in Georgia, such as Kelsey’s Law, which aims to protect children from cyber-bullying and safe harbor laws designed to combat child trafficking throughout the state. “And we need more money to go towards children advocacy still,” said Belton.
“Nothing is more important than protecting our children…We put so much love into our children and then watch them go out into the world, where they face good things and bad things. It’s important as a community that we are there for our children.” Commissioner Harris pledged to continue to support recreational and family-friendly activities in the county, to give children safe spaces to grow up. He also pledged his support to the local law enforcement agencies that investigate child abuse cases in the county. “We should all do what we can to prevent child abuse,” said Harris. “Morgan County is dedicated to protecting the families of this county in anyway that we can. Our county thrives when we realize that we all have a stake in each other.” Mayor Perriman read the official proclamation honoring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. “Every child deserves to be cared for in a safe and nurturing environment, free from verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse and neglect. Safe and healthy childhoods help produce confident and successful adults and the support they need to raise their children in a healthy environment.
“ Perriman noted that children raised in abusive homes are far more likely to engage in criminal activity or struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Victim of child abuse are also more prone to create dysfunctional relationships and experience feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness. “In the City of Madison and Morgan County, effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of ongoing partnerships created among social service agencies , school, civic, and religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, families, caregivers, and members of the business community,” said Perriman.
“I, Fred Perrman, by the virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Madison, Georgia declare that April 2016 be designated Child Abuse Prevention Month and urge residents to commit to ending the cycle of child abuse and neglect by working together to support the children of the City of Madison, Morgan County, Georgia.” For more information about Child Abuse Prevention Month, contact Velde T. Hardy, Family Connection Coordinator, at (706) 343-5907.