Thursday, April 7, 2005

Agencies launch balloons for child abuse awareness

Staff Writer

For the first time Marshall County Family and Children Services kicked off Child Abuse Awareness Month - April - with a blue balloon launch, according to Minnie Hoey, area social work supervisor.

Several dozen people including students from Rust College and Ole Miss and numerous individuals who work with families and interested citizens participated in the ceremony Friday.

Sandra Wilbanks-Panzo, social intern at Family and Childrens Services at Ole Miss reminded everyone of how Child Abuse Awareness Month was started by a Chesapeake, Va., grandmother in 1989 after her 3-year-old grandson was murdered by his mother’s abusive boyfriend.

“One day I was just thinking about all the bruises I had seen on my grandchildren,” Bonnie Finney told a Richmond, Va., newspaper reporter. “I just decided I was going to tie a blue ribbon on my van. Why blue? I intend never to forget the battered, brusied bodies of my grandchildren. Blue serves as a constant reminder to me to fight for protection of our children.”

Youth Court Judge Sarah Liddy said the law requires everyone who sees or suspects abuse to report abuse of children to the Department of Human Services. Locally, 252-4966 is the number to call to report suspected or known abuse. The Mississippi Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-222-8000.

Abuse includes emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

Hoey said figures for year 2004 show that 264 reports of child abuse were made in Marshall County.

“That figure is probably less than it should have been,” she added.

She said the county is fortunate not to have had a child who has died from abuse, but some surrounding counties have.

Mayor Andre’ BeBerry said everyone is responsible for making sure children “have a safe and child-like childhood.

“Children are one of the most valuable resouces our community has,” he said. “Beyond the legal issue, there is the moral issue. God expects us to take care of them.”

DeBerry said it is hard to imagine that people do some of the things to children that is seen on the news.

“Opening our eyes and hearts to it, it helps us to see children are abused at no fault of their own and it needs to be known,” he said.

He said parents should not inflict their own personal responsibilities on their children.

Debra Butler, assistant professor at Rust College, brought 10 students from the Human Behavior II class to the launch. Rust College will hold its annual Child Abuse Awareness Seminar Wednesday, April 13, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the McCarty-Varnell building, she said. Continuing education credits can be earned at the seminar. The program is free to the public and to child service providers, Butler said.

In observance from Ole Miss were Whitney McDonald, Mary Clark, David White and Corvell Coburn, who are enrolled in professor Kim Shackelford’s Children At Risk class.

From Rust College, students Angela Caldwell, Dee Davis, Angela Watson, Pearson Watson, Daphne Reese, Buffy Shorter, Danielle Lyles, Sharita Smith, Vandice London and Candice Williams were present.

Other participants were Mary Paschal, School Attendance Officer for the city and county school districts and Kathleen Feathers, school nurse for Holly Springs Intermediate School; Patricia Anosike, with the Department of Human Services; Amy Brassell with Project Homestead Families First, Rust College; and Melissa Chipman and Dawn Stayton, with Youth Services.

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