Giving thanks for our families, their health and happiness and our collective safety is always appropriate. Being able to thank all who have helped protect children and helped tortured children to heal and recover is a gift in itself.
More than 2,000 people helped Child Enrichment in some way last year. Their help translated directly into services for 673 abused children in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties. Volunteer board members, Court-Appointed Special Advocate volunteers, special event and general volunteers donated 7,484 hours of expertise and work, and 19,599 unreimbursed miles were driven to help 339 children being served by CASA last year. Hundreds of people donated clothing so that more than 500 children could receive four complete outfits, new underwear, socks and a pair of shoes.
Child Enrichment has served more than 17,800 abandoned, abused or neglected children since 1978.
HOW MANY PEOPLE have helped ? Thousands – and we invite more people to volunteer, donate and help us protect children and prevent abuse. We need your help. Sadly, more help is needed. Child Enrichment has been able to serve most of the local child abuse victims, but not all. Despite all the support, there is still more to do.
We are at the beginning of this effort to protect children, not the end. For child maltreatment to become rare, we will need responsible adults to help communicate that abusing, neglecting, exploiting and disrespecting children is wrong and will not be tolerated.
Preventing child sexual abuse cannot be left up to professionals only. Parents and other responsible adults must play a leading role in protecting children, and there’s a lot we can do. We must talk openly and often with our children about their bodies and boundaries; listen and watch for any behavior changes; make sure that the places where our children learn, play and worship; implement policies that minimize the risk of abuse; be aware when adults exhibit an unusual interest in our children; and seek access to our children and our trust – they could be grooming us and our children.
By now, America has had a wake-up call on the issue of child sexual abuse – Jerry Sandusky; the Boy Scouts; the Catholic Church, and the apparent automatic response by so many institutions to cover up, rather than exposing the abuse of innocent children. These ongoing revelations of shameful scandals warn us to take the crisis and epidemic of child sexual abuse seriously.
AMAZINGLY, EVEN the most horribly abused children can and do recover, but they need help to do so. They need a safe and supportive environment, and a few professional therapeutic sessions. Child Enrichment works with children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, and through our CASA program, we make the promise that we will stay involved with them until a safe and permanent placement is found.
The Child Enrichment Child Advocacy Center provides cognitive behavioral therapy for traumatized children, and works with siblings and non-offending caregivers of child victims to make sure that the children are safe, and that no further abuse will occur.
Child Enrichment services are free, so much help is needed from donors, volunteers and friends.
Thank you to all who have helped. Please consider helping if you want to save the emotional and physical lives of children right here who need help. God bless you; happy Thanksgiving; Merry Christmas; and health and happiness to you all.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc. in Augusta.)