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Prevent Child Abuse loses funding, keeps going

COVINGTON -- Prevent Child Abuse Newton has faced tough challenges over the last six months, but the organization's volunteer board of directors is determined to keep it going.

The state Department of Behavioral Health cut grants that fund operational costs for more than 100 nonprofits throughout the state, including Prevent Child Abuse Newton. The agency diverted those funds to organizations focused on preventing underage drinking.

As a result of the loss of the grant, Prevent Child Abuse lost its director, Sheena Berry, earlier this year.

The nonprofit had only newly reorganized under the name Family Resource Center, intent on expanding its scope of services to the community, and located in a new facility. But the funding cuts changed all that, with several new programs having to be canceled before they got off the ground. In addition, a planned partnership with organizations that provide mental health services in the county and shared space and rent fell through.

Now, the organization is once again called Prevent Child Abuse Newton and is located at Cousins Community Center on Geiger Street.

Dr. William Allen, chair of the board of directors, said he's thankful for The Community Foundation of Newton County, which allowed Prevent Child Abuse to move back into its former office space and for grants from General Mills and United Way.

"Those funds have helped keep the doors open so far," Allen said, but said the organization will not be eligible for United Way funds this grant cycle .

The organization's mission is the same -- to prevent child abuse and neglect in all its forms -- but funds are needed to do that, he said.

A partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale has at least provided access to a parental support program, at this point provided by one person on a referral only basis.

Eventually the goal is to once again hold group sessions for parents in need of learning better skills related to child development, managing behavior and discipline, for example. The Active Parenting Now Program, similar to the nurturing program previously offered by Prevent Child Abuse, is a six-session course the board of directors is hoping to offer to the community.

But additional funds and volunteers to administer the program are needed, "people who have a heart for helping the effort to protect children and support parents in what is at best a difficult process, raising children," Allen said.

Meanwhile, volunteers are committed to forging ahead with their mission by continuing to inform the community, with a special emphasis on the new mandated reporter law, requiring anyone who works with children with a reasonable suspicion of abuse to report it.

The organization is also focusing on educating the public more about child sexual abuse.

"The public has become much more aware of the harmful nature of these crimes against children with the Sandusky scandal," he said, referring to the conviction of former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky of dozens of counts of sexual abuse.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Prevent Child Abuse can call 678-342-4004. Volunteers must submit to a criminal background check, undergo orientation and training. Anyone who would like to make a donation can make checks payable to Prevent Child Abuse Newton and mail to P.O. Box 2933, Covington, GA 30015.