April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northeast Tennessee has joined in a statewide effort to make child safety a greater priority.
Blue and silver pinwheels, the national symbol of child abuse prevention, have been placed outside government buildings, businesses and homes across the three-county region served by CASA’s volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children and will continue spinning throughout the month.
The local campaign is part of the Tennessee chapter of the national Prevent Child Abuse organization’s efforts to change the way people think about child abuse prevention and to strengthen public policies that prioritize healthy child development that can prevent child abuse and neglect from happening.
PCA Tennessee Executive Director Carla Snodgrass said studies show sustained exposure to extreme neglect and abuse undermines a child’s development, adversely affects their learning ability and behavior and increases their susceptibility to physical and mental illness.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that those who experienced maltreatment as children are more likely to engage in risky behavior and to suffer adverse health conditions including obesity and chronic illnesses.
Alternately, research conducted by Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that implementing effective policies and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect can save taxpayers $104 billion per year in costs for health care and mental health treatment, special education, foster care, law enforcement and judicial procedure.
“Our ability to thrive as a state depends on how well we foster the health and well-being of the next generation,” Snodgrass said. “This is where prevention comes into play, and this is why Tennessee’s Pinwheels for Prevention campaign was initiated.
“There are many innovative child development efforts being implemented around the state, such as services that focus on shaken baby syndrome prevention, the role parents and caring adults have in promoting a child’s personal and sexual safety and home visitation services such as Healthy Start and Healthy Families Tennessee.
“We can do better, though, and during Child Abuse Prevention Month, we need to ask ourselves not only how we can do better, but what we need to do as a state to bring this kind of ingenuity to scale. (A) focus on innovative and needed services lays the foundation for children’s growth and development that reduces the later possibility of more serious problems from occurring. The fact is, when we invest in healthy child development, we are investing in community and economic development.”
Local activities planned to bring attention to the effort include a city proclamation to be presented by Mayor Jeff Banyas at next week’s commission meeting and a county resolution to be presented by Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge at the April 10 Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Holiday Inn.
On April 11, the Women’s Council of Realtors will host a benefit luncheon and purse auction for CASA, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Bank of Tennessee building at 100 Med Tech Parkway. Tickets are $15 and may be obtained by calling CASA at 461-3500.
And on April 13, Ramey Ford will host a “Community Drive,” in which every child abuse prevention survey completed and every test drive made between 8 a.m.-2 p.m. will generate a $20 donation to the local CASA office and a matching donation from Ramey Ford.
Proceeds from both benefits will help recruit, screen, train and support CASA volunteers to assist juvenile courts in Washington, Unicoi and Greene counties with the placement of abused and neglected children who come under the courts’ jurisdiction through no fault of their own.
Last year, CASA volunteers assisted 432 of the more than 800 children abused and neglected in the three-county area, and still more 400 than children remained on the waiting list for CASA assistance. To help more children who are abused and neglected, more CASA volunteers and more community support to help in their training is needed.
Information about the CASA program may be obtained by calling 461-3500 or by emailing Leslie Dalton, executive director of CASA of Northeast Tennessee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax-deductible donations to CASA of Northeast Tennessee may be made by mail to PO Box 1021, Johnson City, TN 37605.