Child abuse prevention month

Published 8:07 am Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Cumberland Commonwealth’s Attorney Pat Scales is partnering with other agencies to draw attention to the impact of the opioid crisis on children.

According to the Virginia Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention, a child is abused or neglected every 80 minutes and a child dies as a result of abuse/neglect every 7.6 days.

“Those statistics really tell a sad story,” Scales said. “I recently read an article from Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) that indicated that each year, at least 2 million children in this nation have a parent who abuses drugs including opioids and that nearly one-third of the nation’s foster care children are there, partly because of parental drug abuse. It seems clear to me that as the opioid crisis deepens, there’s likely to be an increased negative effect on our children.”

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Scales has signed up her office to be a “Pinwheel Partner” as part of a national campaign to increase public awareness about child abuse prevention.

“Children love pinwheels, and the pinwheel is symbolic of a child’s natural joy and happiness. By creating several bright blue pinwheel gardens in the courthouse area, we believe we’re drawing attention to the problem of child abuse,” said Scales, who prosecutes Cumberland’s neglect and abuse cases. “When people see the blue pinwheel gardens in front of the courthouse, the school, Sheriff’s Office and hopefully other locations, I hope they’ll be reminded that we have to work together to prevent child abuse,” said Scales, who joined forces with Tiffany Booker, Cumberland’s victim-witness director, to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Together, their offices have purchased a child abuse prevention packet that includes pinwheels for the pinwheel gardens, child abuse prevention bracelets, magnets, bookmarks, pens and more. Individuals are invited to stop by Scales’ or Booker’s offices to pick up a pinwheel to show support for the cause.

“During the month of April, I plan to partner with the schools, churches, the community and other agencies to use this information to bring awareness to child abuse prevention,” said Booker, who has been Cumberland’s victim-witness director since 2016. Because the responsibilities of her job require her to work closely with neglected or abused children and the families who are going through the court process, Booker has observed the traumatic impact of abuse on a child. “It’s my hope that all children can live in a healthy, stable, stressfree and abuse-free environment,” she said.

Liz Donnelly is director of the Cumberland Department of Social Services and shared her thoughts about the changing currents caused by the drug crisis. “Like every other community throughout this great nation, Cumberland is facing the destruction and chaos that is the opioid crisis,” Donnelly said in a prepared statement. “We see families torn apart, people without income – jobs – or everyday basic necessities, and a gaping hole where the strong fiber of our communities used to be.”

One of the tools used to enhance investigations of child neglect or physical or sexual abuse cases in Cumberland is the Sexual Assault Response and Child Multidisciplinary Team whose members include Scales, Booker, DSS, the Cumberland Sheriff’s Office and representatives from Crossroads, Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), the Cumberland Court Services Unit and the Southside Center for Violence Prevention/ Madeline’s House.

Captain Dennis Ownby, chief deputy and one of the team’s members, said the Cumberland Sheriff’s Office “works closely with the member agencies of the Sexual Assault Response and Child Multidisciplinary Team to ensure the swift and successful resolution of sexual and physical assault cases, and we also focus on helping maintain the dignity of the victims so their healing can begin.”

“We want the survivors of abuse and neglect and their families to know we’re there for them and that there are services available to help them. We also want to be sure their needs are identified and that they are connected with the services, support and counseling they made need,” said Scales.