The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

April 16, 2013

Agencies raise child abuse awareness, unveil plans for advocacy center

About 50 people attend candlelight vigil

ANDERSON, Ind. — April is observed as Child Abuse Awareness Month, and several Madison County child protection agencies acknowledged the issue Tuesday night at Aspire Counseling Services.

About 50 people attended and received pinwheels meant to represent happiness and childlike innocence. Jama Donovan of the Madison County Prevent Child Abuse Council encouraged everyone to put the pinwheels in their front yard and explain their significance to neighbors.

Tragedies are befalling the country almost daily, and many of the victims are defenseless children, said Aspire’s Susie Maier. In December, Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook High School in Newtown, Conn. Just Monday, an apparent terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed at least three people, including an 8-year-old boy. Aspire estimated about 490 children in Madison County suffer abuse or neglect a year.

“I don’t want to lose anymore angels,” Maier said. “And I think that’s the same way everyone else here feels.”

The lights were lowered and artificial candles turned on as Emily Callen, a student at Pendleton Heights High School, performed a song to honor the children killed in Newtown.

Pam Knight, director of Aspire, said the event was also held to raise awareness of a new child advocacy center being created across the street from Aspire. The solidarity of all the local agencies, as well as a push by law enforcement, is making the center a possibility.

“We want to make children a priority and strengthen families,” Knight said. “Having all of these organizations represented here working toward that goal will make that happen.”

Knight said Maier has been a driving force in the creation of the child advocacy center. Maier said the vision for the center is a child-friendly and welcoming place where children can give statements in a secure environment that can also be observed by necessary parties like police and prosecutors.

“Our goal is for kids to only tell their story once,” Maier said. “This is what Madison County needs.”

Maier said the center is in the nascent stages of development, but Aspire is still waiting for some necessary funding from the Department of Children Services before moving forward. She said the organization has raised about $20,000 through donations and pledges and has been assisted by the Anderson Police Department.

“We really have no timetable for when this will get done, but I’m hopeful it will come together really soon,” Maier said. “I’m guessing in the next few months that funding will be available. We’ve got communitywide support. It’s really just a timing issue right now.”

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @AggieJack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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