03/29/09 — Guardian ad Litem hoping to create awareness of abuse

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Guardian ad Litem hoping to create awareness of abuse

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 29, 2009 2:00 AM

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Colleen Kosinski holds a shoe from a pair that has been donated for the display that will be at the county courthouse in April for abused and neglected children.

More than 400 pairs of shoes -- from baby booties to teen size -- will line the walls of the lobby of the courthouse during April.

Guardian ad Litem hopes the shoes will be a visual reminder that child abuse and neglect still happens here and will encourage everyone to help stop it.

The shoe display is only one of several activities that will be going on in April, which is Child Abuse Awareness Month. Guardian ad Litem is partnering with the Department of Social Services and Family Court to sponsor the events.

Each pair of shoes will represent one of the 417 Wayne County children found to be neglected or abused last year.

In order to do the display, Guardian ad Litem is collecting shoes from people in the community, said director Colleen Kosinski.

"The shoes don't have to be new or in good shape," she said. "They can be torn up, old shoes."

When the event is over, the good shoes will be donated to local charities.

"Shoes come in all different sizes," Mrs. Kosinski said, "just like the children we work with who get abused and neglected come in all different ages and all different sizes. The shoes are representative of these children.

"People know that kids are abused and neglected, but when you see that many shoes representing that many children, it really has an impact on people."

Mrs. Kosinski said the same type of event was held in Lenoir County last year with 273 pairs of shoes. "Even that was really stirring to see," she said. "Some people who came prayed for the children. Others were moved to tears.

"I was there one day when a little girl was there and she asked why there were little bitty baby shoes. I shared with her that some of the most dangerous times for children are the first few weeks of birth."

Also at the Lenoir County event, a table of all black shoes represented the children who had died. Mrs. Kosinski said she hopes to be able to do that at the Wayne County event.

She said the 417 shoes represent substantiated cases of abuse and neglect, but that there were actually 1,600 reports. "That's just the cases we know about. So many other kids suffer in silence and nobody knows what's going on."

Collection boxes for shoes will be at the Guardian ad Litem office at the courthouse, at the Department of Social Services, at Eastpointe and at the school office on Royall Avenue. Shoes will be taken through the end of this month.

For sports fans, there will be a child abuse awareness day at the Kinston Indians game April 19 at 2 p.m.

There will be booths with information for families on parenting. It's also family day at the game and all the kids attending will get to go out and run the bases.

"It will be just a really good time," said Mrs. Kosinski.

A Real World Experience will be held April 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wayne Center for local youths 16 and older. With help from Eastpointe Mental Health, Guardian ad Litem will provide several activities during the day-long event to give older youths a taste of the "real world" through various simulations, said Mrs. Kosinski.

"It will help prepare them for the real world," she said. "They will have workshops on things like banking, housing, how to find a job.

They also will receive cards and play money and they have to go around during the day and get services for themselves. They will have to choose whether to get their hair done or pay their rent, buy groceries or get gas for their car, those kinds of things."

The workshops won't be just lectures, the youths will be doing hands-on activities at each station.

"A judge is coming and will set up a courtroom," Mrs. Kosinski said. "One of the things might be that they got a speeding ticket and have to go to court to get it taken care of.

"Someone from the housing authority will be there to teach them how to fill out an application to get housing. There will be beauticians to talk to them about hair and nails."

About 150 children will be able to participate. Contact Eastpointe to sign up for the free event. Lunch will be provided.

There will also be a child abuse awareness rally April 28 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. "We've never done this before," Mrs. Kosinski, said.

There will be speakers, a school choir singing and more.

"We're really challenging the community to get involved with abuse and neglect prevention," said Mrs. Kosinski. "And it's appropriate to do it at the courthouse because this is where the cases are heard."