Child Abuse Prevention Education

Each year the Family Support Council sponsors “Pinwheels for Prevention” in Murray and Whitfield Counties. Each pinwheel represents a reported case of child abuse or neglect.

Each year the Family Support Council sponsors “Pinwheels for Prevention” in Murray and Whitfield Each year the Family Support Council sponsors “Pinwheels for Prevention” in Murray and Whitfield Counties. There were 725 pinwheels displayed on the Murray County Courthouse lawn and 1,386 pinwheels displayed on the lawn of Dalton City Hall. Each pinwheel represented a reported case of child abuse or neglect in 2021.

Program Manager:  Mary Smith

Program: This program provides information on child abuse and neglect to children, students, parents, grandparents, educators, and mandated reporters. Training is conducted for other groups, including the faith community, foster parents, and civic groups, which includes statistics, recent data reporting guidelines, and general information about the prevention of child abuse/neglect. Each year the program manager provides presentations for any group that will listen. “Safe Sanctuaries” training is available to churches needing training for those who work with children and youth in their churches. This training can be adapted to the needs and requirements of individual churches.

The Child Abuse Prevention Program distributes material on issues related to child abuse/neglect to Family Support Council Staff, who then share it with their clients and other groups of people. Prevention material is sent to all of the schools through Heroes Against Child Abuse and is distributed on every possible occasion. When appropriate, supporting legislation related to child protection issues, and informing the general public of the seriousness of child abuse in our community, is an additional responsibility.

Local annual events help raise awareness of child abuse issues and provide a vehicle for community participation in the prevention of abuse. Child Abuse Prevention Month activities in April help raise awareness in both Murray and Whitfield Counties through the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign and utilization of the media. Pinwheels are displayed at the Murray County Courthouse and on the lawn of the Dalton City Hall with each pinwheel representing a reported case of abuse or neglect in that county. Each pinwheel often represents more than one child in a family. In 2021, there were 1386 reports in Whitfield County and 725 in Murray.

We believe that the diligence of FSC in sharing information about abuse and neglect has contributed to better reporting in our area. With the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse, long work hours, and stress in our area, it has been difficult to expect a marked decrease in reported abuse in the next year. Since 2004, thousands of adults have received training and/or support through the Child Abuse Education Program. Over 7,000 individuals receive services each year with one part-time staff member and a few volunteers.

Since 2014 the agency has provided training for this area with Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children. This training is designed to “empower people to prevent sexual abuse.” It also seeks to “raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.” The training can be provided for any group of adults in our area.

Grief and loss education has also been available in recent years to meet a need in the community. Our child abuse educator is also a counselor and is sometimes called to the local schools when a crisis or death has occurred. Direct services to students and FSC staff have been helpful during the past several years. Sessions on Grief, Loss, and Suicide Prevention are available when requested. Because grief and loss issues are often symptomatic of child abuse survivors, this topic has proven to be increasing in interest in the community

As of October 2021, the Family Support Council has provided an expert witness in every child sexual abuse trial in Murray and Whitfield County. A person must be deemed an expert witness by each judge, and the prosecution and defense must agree with the witness’s expertise in the field of child sexual abuse. The assistant district attorney has determined that the Child Abuse Prevention Educator will be involved in each case by listening to forensic interviews before the trial and testifying in superior court on behalf of the prosecution. Facts from Darkness to Light and other information based on research are shared in court to assist the prosecution in educating the jury about the pervasive nature of child sexual abuse. Because members of the jury generally do not understand the full impact of child sexual abuse nor are they aware of many of the facts related to this type of abuse the witness is able to provide the necessary information to assist them in making a more educated decision. This is one more aspect of community awareness. A byproduct of the trials has been the revelation that jurors are often traumatized or disturbed by the information shared during such a trial, and several have talked with the FSC Executive Director and the Child Abuse Prevention Educator after the trial about what they learned and about their concerns. Being able to provide assistance to jurors who would like to process their concerns after the trial is under consideration. Child sexual abuse is very challenging for most people and listening to children testify, as well as other witnesses can be deeply disturbing for jurors and others in the courtroom.

Mission Statement: The prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing awareness of child abuse issues to community members through educational and support programs.

Objective: The Child Abuse Prevention Education Program strives to ensure that a wide range of services is directed toward the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Program Funding: This program currently receives funding from the United Way of Northwest Georgia, the Alan S. Lorberbaum Family Foundation, and private donations. Staff includes one part-time paid staff member.

Objectives/Goals/Measures:  Program goals related to services provided to families include enhancing family functioning and stability, promoting positive parent-child interaction, and ensuring appropriate childhood growth and development.

Child-related outcomes include:

Parent-related outcomes include:

Community-related (adults) outcomes include:

Collaboration: The Family Support Council has been the largest charter member of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and has been closely involved in the activities promoted by PCAG since the late 1980’s. Locally, this program partners with The Department of Family and Children Services, our local school systems, Dalton State College, child care providers, Whitfield and Murray Family Connection, any child-serving agency, the Faith Community, the court system, the Greenhouse, and the Child Abuse Protocol Committee.