Blue ribbons, proclamation mark Child Abuse Awareness MonthBy Emily Reed Published 5:32pm Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Blue ribbons placed throughout Chilton County during the month of April help to recognize Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Jana Zuelzke, Executive Director/Child Forensic Interview Specialist with Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, said that during the month of April, the focus is to educate the community about the problem of child abuse in Chilton County.
“I believe that it is the responsibility of every adult who comes into contact with a child to protect that child’s inalienable right to a safe and nurturing childhood,” Zuelzke said. “It is important for individuals to be able to recognize the signs that can indicate that a child is being abused and realize that it is their moral obligation to report.”
Members of the Chilton County District Attorney’s Office, the Chilton County Juvenile Probation Office, District Judge Rhonda Hardesty, Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin, Children’s Advocacy Center staff and board of directors, staff members from Head Start, representatives from Chilton County DHR, local counselors and attorneys gathered at 9 a.m. on Tuesday at the Chilton County Courthouse to kick off Child Abuse Awareness Month with a proclamation signed by both Martin and Hardesty.
Zuelzke said in 2013, there were 327 reports of child abuse and neglect to the Chilton County DHR, a 13-percent increase over the previous year.
Butterfly Bridge is asked by DHR and local law enforcement to help intervene in cases of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and child witnesses to crime by providing forensic interviews with the children during an investigation.
Zuelzke said Butterfly Bridge served 46 percent more children in 2013 than the previous year.
“The total children interviewed at Butterfly Bridge last year was 152,” Zuelzke said. “So, about half of the abuse and neglect reports made to DHR last year were in regards to sexual abuse or severe physical abuse which is why they came to Butterfly Bridge.”
Zuelzke said Butterfly Bridge has already conducted forensic interviews with 55 children in 2014 regarding abuse allegations.
“It is so important that we help make our community stronger by making our kids stronger,” Zuelzke said. “We can not do that unless we form partnerships among families, social service agencies, schools, religious and civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community. You may not choose to work on the front lines each day with us at Butterfly Bridge providing direct services to the children, but there are many ways each and every individual can contribute.”
Zuelzke said the concept of the blue ribbons started in 1989 when a Virginia grandmother wanted to pay tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse.
“She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse,” Zuelzke said. “The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country, and many wear or hang blue ribbons each April in honor of child victims of physical and sexual abuse or in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse.”
Claire Ellen Jolly and Jaden Bryant of Thorsby Girl Scout Troop No. 37 asked various businesses in downtown Clanton if they would be willing to hang blue ribbons in store windows for the month of April.
Zuelzke said the girls volunteered their time to help hang the ribbons on Tuesday afternoon.
Zuelzke said several restaurants throughout the county are participating in the “Give Back” to child abuse victims in the community by donating a percentage of their lunch or dinner sales to Butterfly Bridge during the month of April.
Kountry Kitchen will give back 10 percent of its sales on April 8, Main Street Café in Clanton will give back 20 percent of its sales on April 26-27 and The Maplesville Bake Shoppe will give back 10 percent of its sales on April 10.
Zuelzke said several other restaurants would likely participate but did not have specific dates as of Wednesday afternoon.
For more information about Butterfly Bridge, visit www.butterflybridgecac.org or call (205) 755-4205.