Group seeking to prevent child abuse needs new volunteers

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A statewide non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child abuse was itself a victim of the economy.

In 2011, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia succumbed to funding problems, taking the Augusta council with it.

After restructuring, the organization – now managed by Georgia State University – is back in a provisional status with the national organization, Prevent Child Abuse America. By summer it should regain its official status.

But what excites treasurer Jack Padgett the most is the reinstatement of the 1-800-CHILDREN helpline, which should be active and staffed 24 hours a day beginning Saturday.

It’s a hotline that anyone can call for information, referrals and emotional support. It’s been inactive for the past three years.

“Once you delay response to these people, they don’t call back, and that’s a scary thought,” Padgett said.

Prevent Child Abuse Georgia’s sole mission is to prevent abuse through the strengthening of parental abilities and communities.

Locally, Prevent Child Abuse Augusta works to carry out that mission in Richmond, Burke and Columbia counties.

Volunteers are members or workers in other organizations that directly serve children, such as Child Enrichment, the Child Advocacy Center, the Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Center, the Augusta Exchange Club and the Optimist Club, Padgett said.

They meet on the third Wednesday of each month at University Hospital. Most meetings involve helping a member who is dealing with a situation or who needs help managing a problem, Padgett said.

Outreach and community education is another component.

“One of the things we do is try to give service to churches and any other group that wants workshops on child abuse prevention,” he said.

The council assists in the sponsorship of Take Back The Night, a sexual assault rally held every year at Georgia Regents University in April, and workshops aimed at teaching those who work with children the warning signs of abuse and what they should do about them, as well as training on how to report abuse.

“The mandated reporter thing is critical,” Padgett said. “If you’re paid to work with children, you’re a mandated reporter, whether you’re a bus driver, a teacher or a coach, even in churches now.”

Padgett, who is a member of the Richmond County Board of Education, first became an advocate for children while he was a Richmond County commissioner (before consolidation) and working for the Coalition for Children and Youth.

Since then he has worked in a variety of roles, largely in securing funding and writing grants for Child Enrichment and other child advocacy groups.

Now, he uses his background in education, public health and finance to represent Georgia at the state level with Prevent Child Abuse Georgia.

“I guess it’s been something I’ve learned an awful lot about – abuse and how bad it is. It’s worse than I ever considered,” he said.

Prevent Child Abuse Augusta is seeking more volunteers who are interested in preventing child abuse. For more information, e-mail or call Rape Crisis & Sexual Assault Services at (706) 724-5200.

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