I am writing to thank the good people of Blount County for their help in preventing child abuse and caring for its victims. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month across the country, a time to remember the children who suffer the emotional and physical pains of abuse. Here in Blount County, I am sad to report, hundreds of our children are abused each year. Last year, 98 boys and girls came forward to report being abused. However, experts estimate that only one out of 10 ever speaks up. That means about 900 more children in our county are being abused but have not yet summoned the courage to tell somebody.
Fortunately, there are people in Blount County who care – and do something about it. I would like to recognize a few… Our schools play such an important role, because many times the teacher is the only person the abused child trusts enough to tell. The investigators and case workers at DHR show amazing care and concern while working under very difficult circumstances. Our wonderful foster parents step in and give a safe, loving home when a child needs it. Our child crime investigator, Sue Ashworth, works all the child abuse cases in the county in an extremely professional manner. Our juvenile court handles the difficult and sensitive situations in which the perpetrator is a minor. Our District Attorney, Pamela Casey, vigorously prosecutes child abusers to the full extent of the law. And Ellen Shelnutt, our therapist at the Children’s Center, provides free professional counseling for children and their non-abusing family members. If I had the space, I could go on listing elected officials, church leaders, medical providers, and on and on. What’s more, this work is done with an astounding degree of cooperation. I have yet to witness any turf battles or ego issues among these individuals or agencies.
The caring citizens of Blount County also lend their support, buying tickets to our annual fundraiser dinner and making generous donations, without which the Children’s Center would not exist. Plus, our all-volunteer board works tirelessly and selflessly, with only one motive – to help hurting children. And, of course, we are blessed to have The Blount Countian and WCRL, who are always willing to help spread the word about child abuse and how we all can help. It really is a team effort.
So, during April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I ask all the citizens of this great county to please remember “the least of these” – the victims of child abuse. The blue ribbon is the international sign of remembrance for child abuse victims. I will be wearing one. I encourage everyone to do the same.
Jim Ed Clayton
Blount County Children’s Center