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Child abuse brought to light in April

A blue ribbon in April is a reminder of a sad reality in Chilton County and around the nation — that of child abuse.

The symbol began in 1989 when a Virginia grandmother tied a blue ribbon to her car’s antenna in memory of her grandson, who died as a result of abuse. Seven years earlier, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved to designate the week of June 6-12, 1982, as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week.

Just a year later, in 1983, the month of April was proclaimed as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Today, the Blue Ribbon Campaign continues each April as people are asked to display a blue ribbon on their lapel or on the door of their home or business.

Jana Conlee, a forensic interviewer and therapist with Child Protect Children’s Advocacy Center, wants to make people in Chilton County more aware.

“The reason we felt the need to have a satellite office in Chilton County was that in the last five years, the amount of child abuse cases reported in Chilton County has doubled,” Conlee said.

The Chilton County Department of Human Resources reports that in fiscal year 2009, there were 194 reports of concern regarding child abuse and neglect in Chilton County. That time period runs from Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009.

DHR Director Marilyn Colson said a large percentage of cases involve drug use.

“The biggest problem our county faces in terms of parents taking care of their children is when they get involved with either illegal drugs or the abuse of prescription drugs,” Conlee said.

While the stories relating to child abuse are sad and often tragic, the idea of the Blue Ribbon Campaign is to celebrate the individuals, organizations and communities who work to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Many organizations conduct activities in the month of April to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month.

On Friday, April 9 at 10 a.m., children at the Jemison Head Start Center will plant flowers, plant a tree and tie blue ribbons with the help of community leaders. Most of the materials being used for the event were donated by local businesses.

The Clanton Head Start Center held a similar program on Tuesday.

“We provide our parents with buttons to wear for the entire month, and we tie big blue ribbons on the doors of all our Head Start classrooms,” said Lagora Lykes, family services specialist at the Clanton Head Start.

Anyone may obtain a blue ribbon from Child Protect. For more information, call (334) 262-1220.

For more information about child abuse awareness and prevention, visit www.childwelfare.gov.