02/27/08 — Candles for children: Remembering the littlest victims

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Candles for children: Remembering the littlest victims

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on February 27, 2008 1:54 PM

More than 500 tiny flames flickered for the little lives they represented.

Thirty-four tall candles burned behind them for the young lives that were too soon snuffed out by child abuse and neglect.

The candles were for the children of Wayne County and North Caro-lina, during the annual candle-light vigil Tuesday.

Sponsored by the WAGES Wayne County For Children Council, the event was held at Center Stage at Berkeley Mall.

The purpose of the candlelight vigil was to give the community an opportunity to band together and say in one voice "we are not going to tolerate child abuse and neglect."

And that's exactly what Guardian ad Litem district administrator Colleen Kosinski advocated as she gave the State of the Child address during the vigil.

"I could tell you that in North Carolina in 2006, there were 11,150 cases of child abuse and neglect," she said. "And of that number, 24,597 were substantiated. And I could tell you that in North Carolina in 2006, 34 children died as a result of child abuse and neglect."

"But," she continued, "I prefer to tell you about the minister who stepped in when he found out that children in his church were being abused. He contacted the Department of Social Services and the children are now safe because of his actions."

She said she could tell the audience that in Wayne County in 2006, there were 1,730 reports of child abuse and neglect. Of that number, 517 were substantiated and those children desperately needed services.

"But I prefer to tell you about the foster parent whose foster child needed dental services," Mrs. Kosinski said. "It's hard when you are on Medicaid to get dental care. But that foster parent got a dentist to donate his services. Today the child smiles all the time. That child didn't smile before because he had no reason to."

Mrs. Kosinski said the good news is that there were no deaths in Wayne in 2006 as a result of child abuse and neglect. "That's the first time in a long time," she said.

But she also said that the state doesn't track neglect deaths -- deaths that result from a child not getting needed medicine, a child left in a car.

"The numbers tell me that we still have a significant problem of child abuse and neglect in our community," Mrs. Kosinski said. "That's a lot, and it should be concerning to everyone."

She stressed that even one child suffering from abuse and neglect is too many.

Mrs. Kosinski encouraged those attending the vigil to not just talk about the problem, but to get involved.

"It's not enough to think that child abuse and neglect is a bad thing," she said. "It's what we do about it."

She suggested planning activities for Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is April. She also suggested volunteering.

"There is a desperate shortage of foster families in Wayne County," Mrs. Kosinski said. "Sometimes children have to leave the county for lack of foster homes. People can volunteer to be foster parents.

"People can volunteer to give Mom a day out so she can get a little time to herself. People can volunteer as mentors or with Guardian ad Litem.

"I hope this vigil impacts people and they decide to take some personal responsibility."

Patricia Colon, director for WAGES children and families programs, echoed that sentiment.

She said there are many reasons to support healthy families, children and communities. "Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to abuse and neglect their own children. They are more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems."

And she said that every $1 spent for the prevention of child abuse and neglect saves $19 on mental health services, juvenile and criminal justice services and more.

"But everyone should protect children and support families just because it's the right thing to do," she said.

In keeping with the theme of children for the candlelight vigil, members of Tommy's Road Elementary School chorus performed two songs -- "You Raise Me Up" and a song about being an original kid.