April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Stop the Hurt Committee, comprised of social services agencies in the region, is hosting a day of celebrating children at Tupelo’s Gum Tree Park.
“We want children and families to come out and feel safe and open the door to talk about child abuse,” said Shelia Nabors, community partnership coordinator for the Department of Human Services. “We’ll have activities, games and bounce houses for kids to play and brochures and information for parents. It will be a fun kickoff for kids and a celebration of children and their innocence.”
Representatives of Millcreek of Pontotoc, the residential children’s treatment center, will provide food and drinks for the April 2 event.
“Most of our kids are in DHS custody, and a lot of our kids have been physically or sexually abused or neglected by a parent,” said Jimma Smith, director of business development at Millcreek. “The effects abuse has on even a young child at two or three can lead to problems much later in life. A big part of the reason they end up in residential facilities is due to the trauma from sexual or child abuse.”
Smith said they participate in Stop the Hurt because it helps bring awareness to the problems children face.
In Lee County, from Oct. 1, 2010, though Sept. 30, 2011, 244 new victims of child abuse were reported. That year, Lee County had the eighth highest number of new child abuse victims of all Mississippi counties.
“Child abuse happens, and it doesn’t discriminate by race, neighborhood or socioeconomic status,” Nabors said.
The kickoff will lead up to the Stop the Hurt conference April 16.
“The conference is a great opportunity for people who work with families or foster parents – anyone who wants more information about child abuse and prevention,” Nabors said.
Speakers at the conference include District Attorney Trent Kelly, motivational speaker Janie Walters and Dr. Tracy Mims from Mississippi Valley State University.
Nabors said day care and church groups are encouraged to attend the day in the park and should call her at (662) 841-9737 so they can be sure to provide enough food. Activities will begin at noon.