By Tia Lynn Ivey
Civic and community leaders gathered on the front lawn of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to publicly pledge themselves to stand against child abuse last Thursday. The ceremony included a garden of blue and silver pinwheels to symbolize each child in Morgan County that has suffered from abuse. Event organizers believe pinwheels are the perfect symbol to represent these children, because even though the wind blows hard against them, they still thrive.
“This year’s Proclamation and Pinwheel Ceremony was another overwhelming success. The almost 30 participants in attendance from various sectors of the community continues to show our County commitment to ensuring our children are safe and our families are strong,” said Velde Hardy, director of Morgan County Family Connection. “The pinwheels which were planted can be seen blowing in the wind the remainder of the month of April and serves a symbol of this commitment and brings a clear visual that all children deserve a safe and happy childhood. We, every person and every agency, are the answer to the problems which causes families to fall into despair. Together we can help bring an end to the atrocity of child abuse and neglect in our community. While the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect have decreased in Morgan County from 49 in 2009 to 19 in 2019, our work continues.”
County Commissioner Chairman Ron Milton and Madison Mayor Fred Perriman read a proclamation declaring April Child Abuse Prevention Month in Morgan County alongside other local leaders and community members.
Velde Hardy, director of Family Connection, hopes the community will educate themselves during Child Abuse Prevention Month in order to take effective action in eradicating child abuse and neglect in our county.
“Over the past decade, we have worked at the community level by collaborating with a diverse group of local partners to deliver effective prevention programs,” explained Hardy. “We have found partnering for prevention to be both an affordable and effective investment. We believe if we can we can prevent even one child from experiencing physical, mental, sexual abuse or neglect, we can avoid the crippling consequences and ripple effects for generations to come.”
According to Hardy, due to various community efforts, “Morgan County has continued to experience a steady decline in the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect here.” According to the Kids Count data which is produced through the Annie Casey Foundation, “in 2009, 49 Morgan County families had substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect. This number dropped to 36 in 2012 and fell as low as 19 substantiated cases in 2017.”
While cases of child abuse in Morgan County have dwindled in recent years, Hardy believe more work is needed to eliminate child abuse.
“While we celebrate this improvement, the work goes on,” said Hardy. “We believe that one child who experiences the atrocities of child abuse, is one to many. To continue to ensure all children are safe, it takes the entire village. We can all find unique ways in our daily lives to help promote healthy children and families.”
Hardy encourages the community to join with organizations targeting child abuse, particularly the local Children Safe and Families Strong Strategy team to help plan and implement programs and strategies to support local families.
“If you have time in the afternoon, you could volunteer at after-school programs or help coach sports teams to ensure that parents have a safe place for kids to go when they get out of school and before parents typically get home from work,” suggested Hardy. “We all can also donate time or money to local organizations that are focused on prevention.”
Hardy noted the efforts of Family Connection in cultivating efforts and partnerships to address child abuse.
“Through the engagement of community partners, our collaborative has successfully developed and implemented several initiatives and programs.” said Hardy. “These include the First Steps Program where we have provided almost 1000 local families with a localized community resource guide, referrals to relevant resources and age-appropriate information on newborn/child health, school readiness, and various ways to keep their families safe. Our Parent as Teachers Home Visiting Program continues maintain a full caseload with 15 families and has provided 760 hours of in-home support for families, over 100 developmental screens for children in the program, and over 200 referrals to local resources.”
For more information on the work of your local Family Connection or on our upcoming events, please contact Velde Hardy at 706-438-1515 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.