Javon Daniel, director of Cullman Caring for Kids, offers answers to the problem of child abuse and neglect.
CULLMAN – Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK) is a very busy organization. When Director Javon Daniel took charge years ago, CCK's food bank filled one room and served 10 to 12 families per month. That number has skyrocketed, and this year has seen a dramatic increase even over last year.
An average of 550 families receive some type of service each month, and in at least three months this year, that number has exceeded 650. Daniel says that as 50 to 100 new families enter the program each month, fewer than usual are leaving, creating an increasing burden on the agency's resources.
In recent years CCK has distributed 6 to 8 tons of food per month; right now that number is in the 8 to 10-ton range. The former one-room food pantry now fills an entire office suite adjacent to CCK's office, and the staff performs a constant balancing act to figure out how to make the best use of every square foot of its small facility.
And CCK is not a hunger prevention agency. According to Daniel, "Our whole mission, every program, is geared toward child abuse prevention."
So why all the food? Daniel explains that hungry children plus helpless parents equal a household full of anxiety and frustration, a formula for abuse. A simple bagful of nutrition can make a world of difference for a child.
If you visit the CCK office, the food program will be plainly visible. What is not immediately clear is the wide range of other things the agency does to combat abuse.
In addition to the food bank, CCK offers:
- CARES-Child Abuse Rescue through Education in School, an outreach program for local elementary schools that reaches 10,000 students annually. Its actions have led to the disclosure of three previously unreported cases of abuse in Cullman County during this school year so far.
- KARS-Kids at Risk in Schools, an outreach program for middle schools that teaches conflict resolution, anger management and other alternatives to violence. It reaches more than 4,000 students per year.
- CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocates. Trained personnel are assigned to specific cases by courts and conduct independent investigations into cases of abuse, to do whatever is in the child's best interest.
- "Kids Matter"-Radio shows on Fridays (WKUL, 9:30 a.m.) and Sundays (WRJL, 3 p.m.) address child abuse prevention to a regional market of more than one million potential listeners. Some topics might be uncomfortable to talk about, but Daniel insists that no worthwhile subject is off the table if its discussion can help stop or prevent abuse.
- "New Beginning"-This program works in conjunction with the maternity staff at Cullman Regional Medical Center to provide more than 500 new parents per year information on child abuse prevention, Shaken Baby Syndrome and raising healthy babies.
According to Daniel, the upcoming holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Christmas, typically sees an increase in needs as families in need try to provide a special holiday experience for their kids. The holidays also usually see an increase in reports of abuse, when seasonal expectations collide with the frustrating realities of life for many families.
Right now, CCK needs a constant supply of cereal for kids' breakfasts, packaged dry foods such as beans and rice and canned fruit. The oncoming chill of winter also means an increase in the need for warm clothes, and the agency is taking donations of coats. Daniel says that several businesses around town will conduct canned food drives, or donations can be made at the CCK office at 402 Arnold St. NE, Suite W-1.
Cullman Caring for Kids is committed to making life better for the children of Cullman County. Some people assume that child abuse doesn't happen around them, but the agency offers us the unfortunate assurance that it is happening in Cullman. It also encourages us that something can be done about it. If you suspect abuse, report it. If you have the resources, you can contribute. If you have the time, you can volunteer.
Daniel said, "You've heard it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to keep a child safe . . . If the whole community gets behind the effort to stop child abuse, things will change."
For more information or to become involved, visit www.cullmancaringforkids.com.
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