In the Twin Counties alone, the Family Resource Center served 212 victims of child abuse last year.
With that in mind, the Wytheville-based advocacy group held a special ceremony Wednesday in Galax to mark the end of April, which serves as Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month. Along with the Family Resource Center, many other agencies in the area that deal directly with child abuse were on hand, including Mt. Rogers, the Victim Witness Protection Program, Department of Social Services, first responders such as the Galax Police Department, Fries Fire Department and Galax Fire and Rescue, as well as probation officers and Galax City Manager Keith Barker.
“You are such an integral part of everything that happens in this community that is related to violence and safety. I know you all have a really big heart for the children in our communities and for the families that are dealing with child abuse and neglect within their families and trying to make a better life for them,” said Regina Pack Eller, Executive Director of the Family Resource Center, which handles five counties and the City of Galax. “We tied a ribbon on a tree and we wanted to do that to remind ourselves as we go forward out of the month of April that child abuse and neglect is not going to go away anytime soon, and it seems like at least from what we know and what is reported to all of us the problem certainly appears to be getting worse. We just wanted to make that commitment to go forth and make sure that we always have our eyes and focus on this problem in our community.”
Eller said child abuse and neglect is everyone’s problem, not just those at the April 26 ceremony who deal with it on a daily basis. While many would like to think it is not an issue in small towns, it’s a problem that affects everyone.
“Our children are affected by this whether or not it is something that happens to them. The child that sits next to them in school, the child on the bus that acts up and creates problems, the child that requires more attention from the teacher than they would otherwise, those kinds of things impact us all,” Eller said. “And we know that surviving the trauma of child abuse also impacts people over the course of a lifetime…The good news is that we have learned a lot of ways to help people strengthen themselves and heal themselves and learn a lot of ways they can move on in their life and be happy and productive in spite of what has happened to them.”
From July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, Eller said the Departments of Social Services in Carroll County, Grayson County and Galax accepted 827 referrals for child abuse and neglect. Out of those, 411 family assessments were done, 205 were investigated, and 74 cases were founded. During that same period of time, she said Mt. Rogers has served 2,441 victims of child abuse, although she said she hadn’t been able to clarify that number.
“I am going to make a little bit of an assumption that might have been someone that it didn’t happen just now, there may have been some time that passed and certainly that can be the case with the Family Resource Center. We serve people across their lifespan who have experienced child abuse and neglect or domestic abuse and sexual assault,” Eller said. “Those are just the ones that are coming to us. If you run across someone who has experienced child abuse and neglect or domestic violence and sexual assault, make the referral to us. We try to tailor what is needed for the individual rather than having a real strict set of services we provide.”
Susan Clark, Director of Galax Social Services, said this area is fortunate to be in a community that comes together to help families and to help children.
“It is an issue that affects the social context of everything we do, whether it is in law enforcement or EMS or court services or mental health or the Family Resource Center, and particularly in our office,” Clark said. “We are seeing more and more people coming into the system filing more complaints and I think we try in advance of that to work with folks like you, the police, the schools – we attempt to prevent abuse and prevent neglect, which in my estimation if we can prevent from ever happening in the beginning than we have solved a huge problem. We are seeing an increased use of substances, legal, illegal, and other, of course alcohol. Not only that, we are seeing neglect, we are seeing abuse because of those substances and I know most of the children we have taken into care in the last year, which has been enormous comparatively, all but three of those children are victims of substances. Parents use the substances, so I think we have a problem.”
To conclude the ceremony, members of area police and fire departments sounded their sirens across the Galax Courthouse to bring awareness to child sexual assault survivors. The Family Resource Center provides many services to individuals and families, including trauma-informed supportive counseling, specialized trauma assessment and therapy by licensed professionals, crisis intervention, emergency housing, a 24-hour help line, medical accompaniment, and legal/court support. FRC services are provided to female and male adults, teens and children. To access services call (276) 228-3522, or for the 24-hour help line call 1-800-613-6145.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN