Prevent Child Abuse to hold events next month

COVINGTON -- April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a local organization dedicated to that cause year-round is making an extra push to raise awareness.

Prevent Child Abuse Newton will place 932 pinwheels -- representing each case of child abuse or neglect reported in 2009 -- at several locations Wednesday, such as the downtown square, Newton Federal Bank, the Department of Family and Children Services and the Church at Covington. In addition, a giant pinwheel will be placed at each school in the county.

The pinwheels are meant to serve as a reminder that child abuse exists in the community. But the good news is the number of cases in Newton County is decreasing, said Prevent Child Abuse Director Sheena Berry. Reported cases of child abuse and neglect have been as high as 1,400; in 2008, the number had dropped to 1,179. This year, the number decreased by nearly 250, to 932.

"I definitely give credit to the community, to all the organizations that work with the families, and I'd like to put Prevent Child Abuse Newton in there," Berry said. "We've worked with hundreds of families over the last five years, and I'd like to believe we've been a part of helping to educate and give parents other resources that have, in turn, helped to reduce some of those cases."

To further those efforts, Prevent Child Abuse Newton is hosting a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. April 1 at Eastside High School with a focus on positive parenting.

Parents will be able to ask questions of a panel of eight experts in various fields, such as public safety members who will address gangs and other issues, counselors and prevent child abuse specialists.

"Any parent and all parents," are invited to attend, Berry said, "whether you're having problems, whether you're a grandparent or educator or day care worker or anyone that comes in contact with children and you have questions about what to look for with child abuse and neglect and how to handle different discipline situations, or even how to work with difficult parents as a professional."

The event is free. The doors will open at 6 p.m. for attendees to peruse information that will be provided by various local nonprofit organizations.

On April 17, Prevent Child Abuse Newton is holding a motorcycle ride and family festival. The motorcycle ride will begin at 10 a.m. at the old Wal-Mart on U.S. Highway 278 and will take an hour-long route through the county.

The cost is $20 per rider and $10 for passengers. Funds raised will help pay for Prevent Child Abuse Newton operation costs. To register, call Prevent Child Abuse Newton at 678-342-4004.

Afterward, a family festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Church at Covington on Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford. The festival will include music, dramatic performances, food and games, as well as information booths from Prevent Child Abuse and other local organizations.

"Every year it gets a little bigger and a little more informative, I think," Berry said. "We're putting information out there that child abuse and neglect are everyone's issues. Protecting our children is everyone's issue, not just DFCS, Juvenile Court and the police department. We all have to play a part."

For more information on Prevent Child Abuse Newton, visit www.pcanewton.org.