Unfortunately, in too many homes around Georgia and the nation, something goes terribly wrong with that picture. Too many children are born to peo-ple who are ill prepared to care for a child properly, or at all.
These unfortunate children, nearly 75,000 reported cases in Georgia in 2000 alone are abused or neglected, according to Pam Whiteside, director of Polk County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Polk County.
April is Prevent Child Abuse Month. Child abuse is a pre-ventable scourge on our society, one whose costs in human lives and suffering is too high, she explained. But it won’t end until enough people make their voices heard that we must stop allowing so many of our nation’s innocents to live in peril.
“This year alone, thousands of children in Georgia, includ-ing Polk County, need your voice, your helping hand. Will you help,” she added.
“No one believes a child should ever be abused or ne-glected, yet more than eight children every hour, 204 every day in Georgia, are reported to the Department of Family and Children’s Services — and those are just the reported cases. In Polk County, there are cur-rently 137 children in DFCS custody, 100 of them living with foster parents.
“The costs to the children and to society are staggering. Some children end up permanently disabled, some with learning disabilities. Some even die, a large percentage under six years of age.
“And all of them, without ex-ception, bear life-long scars well into adulthood because child abuse is the most pro-found of betrayals: the very people who were supposed to love and protect the child are the very ones who are instead causing it harm. The child learns early at a deep subcon-scious level: I am not good enough to be loved or even protected by the people whose job it is to do so. I’m worthless, “ Whiteside explained.
“As adults, these once abused children fill our prisons, ratchet up our drug and alcohol abuse statistics, have trouble getting and keeping jobs, fail to form healthy relationships, become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, and often go on to abuse or neglect their own children, many of whom will have been born to teen parents, “ she noted.
The Polk director said each family’s share of the estimated $94 billion in direct and indi-rect costs of child abuse is over $1400 a year.
“We can’t blame all society’s problems on child abuse, but ending or severely curtailing its occurrence would put a serious dent in many of our worst prob-lems.
“It’s terrible,” you may be saying to yourself, “but there’s nothing I can do about it,” she explained.
However, she added, some-thing can be done.
“First, you can call or write your U.S. Senator and Congres-sional representative and tell them it’s time to start address-ing causes in addition to apply-ing Band-Aids. Tell them it’s a disgrace that we don’t spend a single cent on prevention of child abuse for every dollar spent on dealing with the mess afterwards.
“You can also support child-friendly legislation at the state level, and lobby your elected state officials to keep or in-crease budgets for both preven-tion and treatment of child abuse. Senator Nathan Dean and Rep. Bill Cummins have been wonderfully supportive and deserve your thanks.
“You can support — with your money and/or your time — some of the fine organizations work-ing hard on these issues. Per-haps you’re willing to become a foster parent yourself for some unfortunate child who needs a safe, stable and loving tempo-rary home. If so, you can call Polk County DFCS at 770-749-4304 for more information.
“You can support the Prevent Child Abuse Georgia organiza-tion by calling 770-445-1660 or visiting their website at http://www.gcca.org. Just one of their many initiatives involves taking violence prevention programs into the schools.
“Or give your support to CASA, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates program. CASA volunteers serve as the voice of the child in court. Their training includes class-room instruction plus time observing Juvenile Court pro-ceedings. Once appointed to a case by a Juvenile judge, the CASA investigates a case by talking to the people involved especially the child to deter-mine his or her wishes and desires.
CASA reports its recommen-dations regarding the best in-terests of the child to the Juve-nile Court, and stays with the case until permanency for the child is achieved.
For more information, you can reach the Polk County CASA at 770-748-2414 or visit the national CASA website at http://www.casanet.org/.