Cullman mayor proclaims April Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month

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Leanne West

Pictured L-R: Kaylee Proctor (CAC intern), Javon Daniel (director, Cullman Caring for Kids), Nancy Bryant (assistant director, Cullman Caring for Kids), Jacqueline Schendel (CAC board member), Haley Gaines (CAC family advocate), Mayor Woody Jacobs, Alisha Jones (CAC bookkeeper), District Judge Kim Chaney, Gail Swafford (CAC executive director), Holly Bussman (CAC board president), Blakely Hopper (CAC forensic interview specialist), Kay Bell (juvenile probation officer), Brandi Suh (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office investigator) and Kerry Neighbors (CAC board of directors)

CULLMAN –  Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs on Wednesday officially proclaimed the month of April 2017 Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month in the city of Cullman.

According to current national statistics, five children die from child abuse or neglect every day in the U.S. Approximately four million children are reported abused or neglected each year, with more than 1,500 dying from their injuries and many others carrying the burden of their maltreatment into adulthood. Children younger than the age of 4 are the most frequent victims. Abused children are more likely to suffer from substance abuse, depression, learning disabilities, school failure, emotional and behavioral disorders, criminal activity and an inability to foster healthy relationships. They are also six times more likely to abuse their own children.

“Child abuse and neglect happens everywhere, even here in Cullman,” said Jacobs. “We are fortunate in Cullman that we have some great organizations and people committed to preventing child abuse, helping victims and drawing awareness to this problem.”

Local organizations and agencies play a vital role in helping to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect. Cullman Caring for Kids, the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman (also known as Brooks’ Place), the Cullman County Department of Human Resources and others help by feeding children and families in need, educating parents on proper parenting methods, educating adults and children on the signs of child abuse and neglect, educating the public on how to report suspected child abuse and neglect, providing a safe place for children who have been abused or neglected to tell their stories and to receive help, coordinating counseling for families dealing with child abuse and neglect, helping families find and obtain much needed resources to help with their daily basic needs, and much more.

On hand from Cullman Caring for Kids to receive the proclamation were Director Javon Daniel and Assistant Director Nancy Bryant. The vision of Cullman Caring for Kids is that no child will ever be abused, no child will go to bed hungry, no infant will ever be shaken in anger and the cycle of abuse will be stopped. They strive to see the next generation loved, encouraged, physically and emotionally prepared to face life feeling wanted and needed, and they provide a variety of services to help accomplish their mission.

Several representatives from the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman (Brooks’ Place) were also present at the proclamation presentation including CAC Executive Director Gail Swafford, CAC Board President Holly Bussman, CAC board members Jacqueline Schendel and Kerry Neighbors, CAC Family Advocate Haley Gaines, CAC Forensic Interview Specialist Blakely Hopper, CAC Bookkeeper Alisha Jones and CAC Intern Kaylee Proctor. The CAC (Brooks’ Place) coordinates a multidisciplinary team consisting of representatives from the Cullman County District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Probation, Department of Human Resources, specialized medical and mental health professionals, and family/victim advocates in order to conduct forensic interviews of victims, provide no-cost counseling for victims and families, provide emotional support, attend criminal justice proceedings, and perform many other valuable services for victims. They also hold various events such as the Safe Kids Expo to promote safety and education about child abuse.

Also present were Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney, Juvenile Probation Officer Kay Bell and Sheriff’s Office Investigator Brandi Suh, who work together with the various organizations and agencies responding to and investigating child abuse and neglect cases and working to resolve and adjudicate those cases.

During the month of April, blue ribbons will be displayed throughout the city. This blue-ribbon campaign was started in 1989 when a Virginia grandmother was grieving the death of her grandson and the battery of her granddaughter at the hands of their abusive father. As a reminder of the bruises she had seen on her grandchildren’s bodies, she attached a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van. Since that time, the blue ribbon has come to symbolize child abuse awareness and prevention. Therefore, during the month of April, citizens and businesses are also encouraged to display blue ribbons on their buildings, homes or vehicles.

For more information on Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month, please contact Cullman Caring for Kids at 256-739-1111 or visit their website at www.cullmancaringforkids.com or contact the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman (Brooks’ Place) at 256-739-2243 or visit their website at www.caccullman.org.

If you know a child who is being abused or neglected, please contact your local law enforcement agency, the Cullman County Health Department at 256-737-5300, or call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.