Pictured, left to right: Haley Gains, Liana Hill, Kaylee Proctor, Gail Swafford, Blakely Hopper, Jill Herring, and Tyler Newman (all from Brooks’ Place); Mayor Woody Jacobs; Jennifer Jackson-Kilgo (DHR), Nancy Bryant (Cullman Caring for Kids), Amanda Buchanan (DHR), PJ Bicknell (DHR), Candace Lingo (Cullman Caring for Kids) and Jesselyn Shewbart (Cullman Caring for Kids).
CULLMAN – Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs has officially proclaimed the month of April 2018 “Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month” in the city of Cullman. The Cullman County Commission did the same for Cullman County at its meeting this week.
According to current national statistics, five children die from child abuse or neglect every day in the US. Approximately 4 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 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, commit criminal activity and have an inability to foster healthy relationships. They are also six times more likely to abuse their own children.
Local agencies such as Cullman Caring for Kids, the Child Advocacy Center (Brooks’ Place) and the Cullman County Department of Human Resources (DHR) provide a host of services for children and families in need. They teach parents proper parenting methods, educate adults and children on the signs of child abuse and neglect, inform the public on how to report suspected child abuse and neglect, provide a safe place for children who have been abused or neglected to tell their stories and to receive help, coordinate counseling for families dealing with child abuse and neglect, help families find and obtain much needed resources to help with their daily basic needs, and much more.
“I am so glad these organizations work together to address the problem of child abuse in our community,” said Jacobs. “I don’t understand how anyone can hurt a child, but I know it happens and I appreciate those who devote their time to help these children and their families.”
Nancy Bryant, assistant director of Cullman Caring for Kids, was on hand for the proclamation presentation and stated, “Last year, 28 children died as a result of child abuse and neglect.”
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. The organization strives to see the next generation loved, encouraged, physically and emotionally prepared to face life feeling wanted and needed, and it provides a variety of services to help accomplish its mission. Other representatives from Cullman Caring for Kids present for the proclamation presentation were Candace Lingo and Jesselyn Shewbart. Director Javon Daniel was out of town.
Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Gail Swafford, also on hand for the proclamation presentation, said, “We saw 265 children last year in our facility.” Swafford added, “We are doing something new this year. We are going into the schools to help educate teachers, parents and children on how to recognize and treat child abuse and neglect.”
The Child Advocacy Center (Brooks’ Place) coordinates a multidisciplinary team consisting of representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Probation, DHR, specialized medical and mental health professionals, and family/victim advocates 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.
Other representatives from the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman present at the proclamation presentation were Haley Gaines (family advocate), Liana Hill (forensic nurse), Kaylee Proctor (outreach coordinator), Blakely Hopper (forensic interview specialist), Jill Herring (bookkeeper) and Tyler Newman (MSW intern). Representatives from Cullman County DHR were also present, including Jennifer Jackson-Kilgo, Amanda Buchanan and PJ Bicknell.
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.
“I want to thank everyone who plays a role in helping abused and neglected children and their families, because without them, this problem would be so much worse,” added Jacobs. “I urge everyone to find out how they can help in the fight against child abuse and neglect.”
For more information on Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month, contact Cullman Caring for Kids at 256-739-1111 or visit www.cullmancaringforkids.com, or contact the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman (Brooks’ Place) at 256-739-2243 or visit www.caccullman.org.
If you know a child who is being abused or neglected, please contact your local law enforcement agency, the Cullman County Department of Human Resources at 256-737-5300 or the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.