02/13/07 — Candles honor 554 victims of child abuse

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Candles honor 554 victims of child abuse

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on February 13, 2007 1:51 PM

Flickering flames from more than 500 candles reminded those who gathered at a candlelight vigil Monday of the children whose lives have been touched by abuse or neglect last year.

Six tall candles with large blue ribbons tied around them made a semi-circle behind the smaller lights symbolizing 36 children who have lost their lives to abuse.

And in the center, tied with a black ribbon, was the candle for Jonneka -- a Wayne County teen who died last June because of alleged abuse.

The children were remembered at the Life L.I.G.H.T.S. for Children Candlelight Vigil Monday night at Berkeley Mall. The event was sponsored by the WAGES/Wayne County For Children Council.

There were 517 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect last year in Wayne County, said Colleen Kosinski of the Guardian ad Litem program, who spoke at the vigil. That number, plus the children who died in North Carolina of abuse and neglect, were memorialized with individual candles.

"Every nine days a child in North Carolina dies as a result of homicide," Mrs. Kosinski said. "Every 15 minutes a child is abused or neglected."

The victims range in age from newborns to teenagers, she said, and they died from abuse ranging from blunt force trauma to drowning or suffocation.

Mrs. Kosinski urged the community to unite to protect its children.

"We need to know we've done everything we can to protect our children," she said. "We don't need to stand idly by and watch children being abused and neglected."

Community members can become a mentor to a child, teach a parenting class, babysit someone's child occasionally, be available to a new mother and most of all, report abuse and neglect if they see it, she added.

"We can also advocate for better services. Better mental health services, better support services for families."

Giving reasons to support healthy families, children and communities, Wayne County Health Department Director Jim Roosen said there is much going on to prevent abuse and neglect in the county.

"But we see the same pattern over and over," he said. "Children that should have been identified as being in a risky situation and were not. We need to focus on this as a community."

Also speaking on children's safety was Daniel Johnson, associate pastor at Goldsboro Worship Center.

Following the speakers, young poet Imani Oliver read some of her work.

During the event, posters made by local daycares were displayed.

Concluding the candlelight vigil, For Children Council President Sonya Strouse said "until there's never a candle that has to be lit for a single child, we will continue to hold this vigil.

"When you walk down the mall and see that many candles lit, it really brings it home to you that this many children suffered at the hands of a guardian or a parent."