April kicks off Child Abuse Awareness Month

Published 3:36 pm Friday, March 27, 2015

Child Abuse Awareness Month will kick off April 1 with a community-wide “Blue Ribbons and Biscuits” event at Elizabeth Hall in Clanton.

“We wanted to include the community in this year’s event because we believe that child abuse is a community problem,” said Jana Zuelzke, Executive Director/Child Forensic Interview Specialist with Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center. “It takes everyone in the community to be aware of what they can do to help prevent the problem. Our communities are stronger when all citizens become aware of child maltreatment and do everything they can to make sure our children are growing up in a safe and nurturing environment.”

The event will offer complimentary coffee and biscuits beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Chilton County District Judge Rhonda Hardesty will provide remarks at 8 a.m. and will sign a Child Abuse Awareness Proclamation with Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin at 8:15 a.m. declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

The event is hosted by the Junior Board of Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center.

Blue ribbons will also be placed throughout Chilton County during the month of April to help bring awareness to the community about child abuse.

“It takes a community of people to help make our children safer,” Zuelzke said.

In addition to mandatory reporters of child abuse in the community, Zuelzke said she believes everyone has a moral obligation to report child abuse if they suspect a child is being harmed in any way.

“I believe that it is the responsibility of every adult who comes into contact with a child to protect that child,” Zuelzke said. “We will have information available at the event for people to be able to learn how they can recognize signs that might indicate a child is being abused.”

This year, there have been 52 children interviewed due to allegations of physical and sexual abuse, Zuelzke said.

“Most abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows; it is rarely a stranger,” Zuelzke said.

Zuelzke said all citizens, community agencies, faith organizations, schools and businesses should work together to increase their efforts to support children who have experienced the trauma of abuse as well as helping to prevent abuse from happening.

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.

The woman 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.

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.

Zuelzke said pinwheels are also a symbol of Child Abuse Awareness because a pinwheel connotes “whimsy” and childlike notions.

Local Girl Scouts will be hanging blue ribbons on the doors of businesses on Main Street later in the day on April 1.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.butterflybridgecac.org.