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Saving children through prevention is non-profit’s mission

 

By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Each year, for the past several years, Prevent Child Abuse Henry County has planted pinwheels on the McDonough Square as a stark reminder of the number of reported cases of child abuse in Henry County for the previous year. Last April, there were 2,090 pinwheels representing neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse of our most vulnerable population.

Staff from Get Set Grow present a check in the amount of $9,000 to Robin Jones, with Prevent Child Abuse Henry County, at Piedmont Henry Hospital last week. L. to r.: Bryan Shockley and Karen Pierce, both with Get Set Grow, Robin Jones, Deidra Davis and Modupe Solomon, all with Prevent Child Abuse Henry County and Adam Stanfield with Get Set Grow.                                            Photo by Melissa Robinson

  Robin Jones, the coordinator for the Henry County organization said that child abuse crosses all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines and unfortunately, it’s as prevalent in Henry County as anywhere else.

  “Most people are shocked when they hear we had 2,090 cases reported in just one year, and that’s just the ones that are reported. Obviously they are not all substantiated, but we imagine there are many that go unreported. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what your background is, child abuse unfortunately crosses all those boundaries. And we just want to make people aware that we offer other programs and information for people who want to get involved helping prevent child abuse, as well as how to recognize it or report it.”

  Jones said she firmly believes the answer to ending child abuse is to prevent it, and she has dedicated the past 15 years on the mission with her work on behalf of the organization. She has been with the organization since 1997, after a ten-year career as an investigator with the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). 

  Although Jones came on board in 1997, Prevent Child Abuse Henry County was founded in 1994 by a group of citizens, headed by former board member, Diane Beal. The mission was and is dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect in all forms through public awareness, educating the community about child abuse prevention and carrying out child abuse prevention programs in Henry County.

  “I think it’s important for people to remember that sometimes they might be the only voice a child has, the only person to report a case of suspected abuse, and even if it’s untrue, we have to count on DFACS to use their discretion,” she said. “You have to remember that if you don’t report it, there might not be any one else that does.”

  But she also said that preventing child abuse might simply be offering parents resources that can help them. If it’s a case of neglect, helping parents find financial assistance, counseling or childcare.

  Operating out of donated office space at Piedmont Henry Hospital, she said Prevent Child Abuse Henry County runs on a tight budget. She is the only paid employee.

  “Piedmont Henry has been awesome in their support, especially with giving us an office all these years,” said Jones.

  She said board members volunteer their time and she utilizes additional volunteers and interns from local colleges. She also relies on private donations and writes for grants in order to be able to offer programs, such as the First Steps Program, where volunteers meet with new moms in the hospital and bring a goody bag of resources and information. The volunteer then follows up with a home visit each month for the first two months.

  Volunteers go through a training process where they learn to recognize if the new mother is having difficulty or needs some help in dealing with a fussy newborn or needs assistance with food or medical care. This year they will see close to 1,000 new families in the program, and she credits volunteers with making it successful.

  Deidra Davis, a Healthcare Management major from Clayton State University said she is learning a great deal from her internship with Prevent Child Abuse.

  “We offer information and resources that people can use, helping women take care of their babies, helping them with finding physicians and day cares,” said Davis. “I didn’t think there were many resources out there, but actually there are. We give them information for Henry and other counties.”

  Modupe Solomon, a nursing student at Clayton State, has been interning since December.

  “It’s been a very good experience. I’ve learned a lot about the resources they give to the moms, and it’s important to remember that you never know what someone is really going through and these resources can really help parents,” she said.

  In order to help quantify effectiveness of their programs, Jones said that they have been asked to participate in a study by Johns Hopkins University to assess parenting programs across the country.

  “It’s difficult to measure effectiveness of programs such as ours, but Henry County has been chosen as one of the study groups for Johns Hopkins University, who is doing a study on the effectiveness of parenting programs like First Steps, so hopefully we will have a measurable way to see how we are doing,” she said.

  To help continue the mission dedicated to children, the organization just received a financial boost with a recent donation in the amount of $9,000 that was part of the proceeds from the Turkey Day 5K held last November in McDonough. Ready Set Grow hosted the race and presented a check at Piedmont Henry Hospital last Friday.

  The next fundraiser on the horizon is a Texas Hold’ Em Poker Tournament to be held on March 2 at the Eagles Landing Country Club in cooperation with Willett Honda.  Jones said she is hoping for a big turnout to support the cause of raising money for preventing child abuse in Henry County.

  “We’ll have a DJ, plenty of food and a cash bar,” said Jones. “It should be a lot of fun.”

  Also, this year’s Pinwheels Awareness Event will be revamped to include an awareness walk, and the pinwheels will be displayed at Heritage Park, in order to accommodate more people and reach a wider audience.

  She said there are always opportunities for volunteers, whether it be serving on the Board of Directors or with the First Steps program, and she encourages anyone interested to contact her and get involved. Financial donations are also needed and are tax deductible.

  For Jones, the bottom line is simple.

  “All children deserve to grow up free from abuse or neglect and have a real childhood, and prevention is the answer,” she said, “I think if people are willing to get involved  and help each other, help parents and protect the children, we can see an end to abuse.” 

  For more information or to volunteer or make a financial donation, call 770-507-9900 or visit Prevent Child Abuse Henry County on Facebook.

 

 

©Henry County Times, Inc.