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Prevent Child Abuse helping teens, parents of young children

COVINGTON -- This month, just like every April, motorists along U.S. Hwy. 278 and visitors to the Covington Square are seeing pinwheels blowing in the breeze in commemoration of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

But this year, the pinwheels are in the shape of a heart, and there is not one per reported case of abuse. That's because instead of dwelling on statistics, Prevent Child Abuse Newton is shifting its focus to protecting children and providing the community with more education and resources to do just that. The theme for Child Abuse Prevention Month this year is "Supporting Children - Strengthening Communities."

The organization, still forming its new direction since funding cuts occurred last year, is going to be specifically targeting teen parents and parents of children ages 1 to 4.

Though in the past, Prevent Child Abuse Newton has focused on parents of school-aged children, there is evidence that children age birth to 4 or 5 are the most vulnerable age group for neglect and abuse, said Dr. Bill Allen, chair of the Prevent Child Abuse Newton Board of Directors.

The organization is soon to host an educational program called 1, 2, 3, 4 Parents! The program will likely start in August and three 90-minute sessions will include topics such as the ages and stages of development; building the bond between your child and you; activities to try at home; how to use non-violent discipline; rules; choices and consequences; and the power of encouragement.

Allen said the plan is to reach out to daycares and agencies within the community to host the program so it is more easily accessible to parents. Prevent Child Abuse is hoping to combine forces with The Learning Center to provide books to children of parents who participate in programming, and promote early childhood literacy.

In addition, Allen said Prevent Child Abuse is looking to partner with local schools for programs for pregnant teens. Immaturity can be a risk factor in raising children, along with stress, and both may be present in teen parents, he said.

For more information, contact Prevent Child Abuse Newton at 770-786-0807.

Everyone can help prevent child abuse by following these suggestions:

-- Get to know children in your own family and children of friends and neighbors and build safe, stable nurturing relationships with them. Take an interest in their activities and learn about their hopes and dreams. Isolation of parents, children and families from support in the community can be a risk factor.

--Volunteer with groups in the community that provide assistance to children and families in need or make donations to these groups. Help families who are overwhelmed connect with resources such as reduced-cost health clinics, mental health providers, pastoral care, support groups, food banks, respite care and credit counseling.

-- Enroll in a parenting education class.

-- A new law in Georgia makes it incumbent on adults to recognize and report suspected child maltreatment. To learn more visit www.childwelfare.gov.

-- Choose carefully adults supervising children and teens and make sure they have emotional maturity, stability, caring and responsibility to respond appropriately to the needs of the child.

For additional help and resources, contact Childhelp at 1-800-422-4453; National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736; or National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.