April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Petal

By HASKEL BURNS,

Petal officials are doing their part to join Kids Hub Child Advocacy Center in the fight against child abuse, as Mayor Hal Marx recently proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the city.

The announcement was made at a recent meeting of the Petal Board of Aldermen, where Marx received a copy of the proclamation stating “child abuse is a serious problem, and ending abuse involves all people in the community.”

“It’s a way for us to draw attention to the issue of child abuse, and to show our support for groups like Kids Hub that are working to prevent it in our community,” Marx said. 

According to numbers provided by Kids Hub – a Hattiesburg non-profit organization devoted to providing forensic interview services and advocacy to victims of child abuse – approximately 3.5 million children are subject to at least one report of abuse and neglect in America. Of those reports, about 31,000 each year come from Mississippi.

“We’re really excited that our county and city leaders are really stepping up to recognize that child abuse is a community problem, and doing their part to make community members aware,” said DiDi Ellis, executive director at Kids Hub. 

The proclamation acknowledges Kids Hub for providing services to 146 Forrest County children in 2016 and states “all citizens should become more aware of the negative effects of child abuse and its prevention within the community, and become involved in supporting parents to raise their children in a safe, nurturing environment.”

“All of us, obviously, are for preventing child abuse and helping those that are being abused,” Marx said. “We appreciate what (Kids Hub) does.”

In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Kids Hub will sponsor several events throughout its service counties – Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Lawrence – to spread awareness of child abuse. The events are designed to provide information and material aimed at prevention child maltreatment, as well as to celebrate those who work with children and families.

That includes the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign, in which pinwheel gardens are placed at various locations around the four counties. On Friday, representatives from Kids Hub joined with members of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church to plant pinwheel gardens at Petal City Hall and Forrest County Justice Court.

“There are pinwheel gardens at each of the courthouses in the county seats, and those pinwheel gardens specifically identify the number of children served for that county,” Ellis said. “Then we have sponsored pinwheel gardens where community organizations and businesses have sponsored locations, and at those gardens there are 414 pinwheels, and that represents the number of children that came through the door of Kids Hub for services.”

In addition to Petal, officials from Columbia and Monticello have agreed to do proclamations naming April Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“We are really thankful that community leaders recognize that child abuse is a problem, and are willing to take a stand to help bring awareness about this silent epidemic,” said Karie Chatham, community outreach coordinator for Kids Hub.