Group works to raise abuse awareness

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Members of Lincoln County’s Family and Children’s ServicesDivision of the Mississippi Department of Human Services hope ablue ribbon-bedecked tree on the county courthouse lawn will helpdraw attention to the plight of children during Child AbusePrevention Month.

Amanda Russell, a licensed social worker in the division, saideach of the 40 ribbons tied to the tree Monday by members of theBrookhaven division symbolizes a substantiated case of child abusein Lincoln County within the last year.

The Blue Ribbon Campaign is a partnership between the divisionand Project Homestead, a statewide initiative forming communitypartnerships to protect vulnerable children and adults from abuse,neglect, or exploitation; support family preservation and communityliving and prevent family violence and disruption.

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The Blue Ribbon story begins in the spring of 1989, when aChesapeake, Va., grandmother organized the first campaign as atestimonial to her 3-year-old grandson, who was murdered by hismother’s abusive boyfriend.

Bonnie Finney’s misgivings about the way her grandchildren werebeing treated were confirmed tragically, and she devised thecampaign as a way to bring public awareness to the plight of abusedchildren.

Abuse takes more forms than the most common physical beating.Other forms of abuse include emotional and verbal abuse, sexualabuse and simple neglect.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Advisory Board onChild Abuse and Neglect, more than 2,000 infants and young children- more than five each day – die at the hands of parents orcaretakers. An additional 18,000 children are permanently disabledand 142,000 are seriously injured of abuse each year.

In 2000, the state DHS received more than 18,000 reports ofsuspected child abuse and neglect.