Family fun offers message: Festival aims to prevent child abuse through raising awareness
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Monday, April 29, 2019
Warm and sunny weather coupled with lots of family-friendly fun drew a couple of hundred people to the Town Common on Sunday for an event aimed at equipping visitors with tools to identify and prevent child abuse.
The Pitt County Department of Social Services hosted its Child Abuse Awareness Festival from 2-5 p.m. at the popular park as part of its Child Abuse Awarness Month activities.
The event featured music, food and activities and access to a variety of public agencies and nonprofits that work to encourage strong families and keep children safe.
“We want to bring awareness to the community, and we have all these resources out here so that we can help families in reference to child abuse and neglect,” said DSS Child Welfare Supervisor Monica Daniels, one of the festival’s organizers.
Daniels beamed with excitement at the size of the crowd on Sunday. “It’s all of our responsibilities to keep children safe,” she said. “All families need support; they need people to look out for them and people to encourage them. Parenting is hard sometimes, so they need that little push.”
Families enjoyed a wide array of activities on the beautiful afternoon. While some sipped cold drinks and munched on cotton candy and funnel cake, Purple the Clown blew up balloon animals as children’s faces lit up with excitement. Other children bounced around in the Greenville Fire-Rescue Fire Safety House while parents looked on.
More than a dozen nonprofit groups were on hand to provide families with resources on parenting, child development and other topics, while members of the Greenville Police Department and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office got to meet festival-goers and establish positive relationships with them.
An estimated 1,600 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in Pitt County each year, according to Daniels. Approximately five children die each day in the United States due to child abuse, according to dosomething.org.
For Heather Hucks of Greenville, whose daughter Milee is just over a year old, being connected to resources at the festival is extremely important.
“It’s important for the wellbeing of my child and my learning how to be a better parent,” Hucks said. “You can reach out to other people and they’ll help you. Because it’s not OK to be abused by anybody. There’s a lot of people that are experiencing that kind of stuff more and more these days.”
Kristie Demers, communication manager of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, worked a booth at the event.
Her group aims to decrease risk factors that put children in abusive situations while increasing factors that allow children to thrive and develop.
“Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina is the only statewide organization that’s dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs,” Demers said. “Child abuse and neglect doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all races and all demographics. It affects us all and it doesn’t just affect us today, it affects that child long into the future and all of us.”
Demers added that her organization works with all 100 North Carolina counties through awareness campaigns, advocacy initiatives and home visits designed to support parents raising children.
Pitt County Director of Social Services Jan Elliot delivered some brief remarks at the festival.
“This is a day to provide connections in this community for families with children to help them have the best possible outcomes for themselves and their children,” Elliot said.
“We want to work ourselves out of a job. We want healthy, safe families. I am excited to see so many of you out here,” Elliot said.
And Pitt County Commissioner Beth Ward praised those who attended the event and said everyone has a part to play when it comes to the well being of children and families.
“This community plays a large role in protecting our children and strengthening the families of Pitt County,” Ward said. “Children are God’s gift to all of us. We have to love them, protect them and guide their growth and development,” Ward said.
Contact Tyler Stocks at email@example.com or 252-329-9566.