03/24/09 — County courthouse shoe display will mark incidents of child abuse

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County courthouse shoe display will mark incidents of child abuse

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 24, 2009 1:46 PM

The county courthouse atrium next month will be adorned with hundreds of children's shoes to draw attention to child abuse in the county and state and the public's support is being sought to help make that happen.

Each of the 417 pairs of shoes will represent one of the 417 abused/neglected children in the county last year.

In addition, 50 to 60 black pairs of shoes will represent the number of child abuse deaths across North Carolina last year.

April is Child Abuse Month and commissioners last week were asked for permission to place the shoes in the courthouse and to support other events associated with the observance.

The displays are part of education and outreach activities for the month, said Stoney Blevins, program administrator, Wayne County Adult and Children's Services.

The public is being asked to donate shoes that can be added to the display, Blevins said.

Shoes in good condition will be given to needy children, Blevins told commissioners.

"The main thing is that it is an awareness campaign," Blevins said. "Child abuse and neglect prevention happens in the community. We respond to it. The community is the first line of defense and we are the second."

Commissioners also were asked about allowing a Child Abuse Month flag to be flown at the courthouse.

The board approved a resolution proclaiming April as Child Abuse Month in the county and County Manager Lee Smith said he would look into the logistics of the other requests.

The activities are being planned by a committee made up of members of Family Court, Guardian ad Litem program and the Children's Collaborative, Blevins said.

A public event will be held April 28 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. Commissioner Steve Keen will speak.

The program will focus on substance abuse, Blevins said.

"Drug abuse is the most prevalent cause of child abuse and neglect not only in Wayne County, but across the state," he said.

During the past fiscal year that ended June 30, the county Department of Social Services received and responded to 1,600 calls concerning neglect or abuse. About 20 to 25 percent of those calls were substantiated, Blevins said.

Currently, 65 families are being served through an in-home program. In each case, the children are safe, he said.

When that is not the case, children might be placed in foster care. There are 99 children in the county under foster care at the moment including 49 who "have been cleared for adoption," he said.

Of that number, 39 children already are in their pre-adoptive places while the family is awaiting on the necessary paperwork to be completed to finalize the adoption. Already this year, 31 children have been adopted.

For more information about child abuse or neglect or on the adoption program, contact Blevins at 731-1099.