04/05/09 — Ceremony marks observance of child abuse prevention month

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Ceremony marks observance of child abuse prevention month

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on April 5, 2009 2:00 AM

City and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base officials encouraged those attending a child abuse prevention ceremony Thursday to work together to keep children from being hurt.

The ceremony was sponsored by the WAGES and Wayne County For Children Council and was held at City Hall. This year's theme was "Child Abuse Prevention 365." It was held to boost awareness of child abuse and neglect, LeeArnettra Mitchell-Lee, chairman of the council, said.

In his proclamation, Mayor Al King noted that child abuse is a community problem and that finding solutions depends on involvement among people throughout the community.

He said that about five million children are reported as abused or neglected in the United States each year and that there were 121,521 cases reported in North Carolina last year. In 2007, 25 North Carolina children died as a result of abuse.

The mayor encouraged the collaboration of social service agencies, schools, faith communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community.

"April is set aside as Child Abuse Prevention Month," he said. "But we need to do it 12 months of the year."

Talking on supporting healthy children, families and communities was Lt. Col. Robert Wischtischin of the 4th Medical Operations Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. April is also the Month of the Military Child.

"Children are our nation's most precious resource," Wischtischin said. "They must be raised in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for our nation to thrive."

He said people need a sound foundation while they are young in order to develop grow into healthy adults.

"The Air Force will spare no effort to eradicate child abuse," Wischtischin said. He said the Air Force has a zero tolerance policy on child abuse, but for it to work, "We all must have a zero tolerance policy in ourselves."

During the ceremony, Viola Ryals Figueroa and Teri Thompson delivered a presentation on "What About The Children?"

Ms. Thompson said that every 30 seconds a child is abused or neglected and most of the time by someone he or she knows.

Ms. Figueroa said that abuse prevention is the key to providing a child with that strong foundation that means a better future.

Following their presentation, TaTiany Ryals Ramsey performed an interpretive dance.

Mitchell-Lee said that a child welfare flag will be flown over City Hall all month as a reminder of the need to prevent abuse.

"Child abuse and neglect goes on every day of the year. And it shouldn't be a monthly issue that we're faced with," she said.

"By having these types of ceremonies, it helps remind the public about the issue of child abuse and neglect that occurs in our county and in our state," Jennifer Dupuis, a member of the council, said.. "Calling out the statistics actually gives them an idea of the numerous victims that are in our state.

"By providing this ceremony and education to as many people as we can, we are able to get the word out and hopefully educate enough parents on how to be a positive role model to their children."