SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Advocates say at least one in seven children in the United States will experience some form of physical or emotional abuse.
Blue pinwheels cover the lawn at Chatham County Juvenile Court, each one raising awareness for the children who face abuse and neglect.
“Our court sees hundreds of cases of neglect and abuse every year,” said Judge Thomas Cole, presiding judge for the Chatham County Juvenile Court. “What we do as judges and our court and our government locally is trying to put in place tools and resources to help people overcome the challenges they face.”
Local organizations are working together to provide access to programs focused on helping kids overcome their circumstances while offering support to families.
“Hurt people, hurt people and our children face a lot of violence in the community. The crime is relatively high and these same children are the product of that,” Cole said.
Kate Blair the Executive Director for Brightside Child Family Advocacy said there needs to continue to be conversation in order to ensure access.
“We can’t in our community talk about wanting to reduce crime and poverty if we’re not really going to invest in the young people that are part of our community,” Blair added.
With advocates saying the child abuses cases are on the rise nationwide, the Chatham County Juvenile Court and other child welfare agencies are working to reduce the risk for abuse and neglect through social and emotional connections, education, and developmental programs.
“We have a family treatment court here in juvenile court that provides treatment for substance abuse for the parents,” Cole said. “We have a human trafficking court to help address the challenges that children face when they’ve been trafficked. We have a mental health court that helps address challenges that children and the parents face.”
Anne Robinson the Director of Front Porch said children need positive reinforcement especially when they are in trauma.
“I think with children, it’s really important to play to their strengths, make sure that you are highlighting the things that they are good at, that they feel competent and confident in,” Robinson added.
Organizations in Chatham County said conversation is the first step to ensuring children have access to the resources they need. Advocates encourage the community to volunteer and get involved.