April is child abuse awareness month

Tina Bartleson, executive director of the Family Resource Center, and LaDonna Collins, executive director of Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth, hold blue pinwheels that signify local families receiving assistance.

Pinwheels will be planted in front of the Rome Floyd Chamber on Thursday afternoon, to mark the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Rome’s Exchange Club Family Resource Center and the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth are sponsoring the annual ceremony, which will start at 1:30 p.m. outside 1 Riverside Parkway.

“We invite community members to meet us there,” said Tina Bartleson, executive director of the Family Resource Center.

In the past, each blue pinwheel stood for a local case of child abuse and neglect. Starting this year, each pinwheel will now represent a family in the community that is accessing help.

The FRC wants the focus of the pinwheels to serve as a reminder that there are a lot of opportunities for families to connect with agencies that can help.

“Sometimes there is a stigma about reaching out, and those in need of some support might hesitate to reach out for fear of how it makes them look,” Bartleson said.

This also marks the first year that the pinwheels have been placed on the lawn at the Chamber.

“The reason we planned that is to highlight our renewed partnership with the Chamber,” Bartleson said. “We’ve realized over the last few months that we have some overlap — that the things that we do to strengthen families also helps with workforce development. Our business community has been invested in us already and we want to support them as well. I see us as all being partners.”

Bartleson and LaDonna Collins, executive director of RFCCCY, said they are excited about the community events scheduled for this month — especially since last April’s events were canceled due to the onset of the pandemic.

A brand new event this year is the Exchange Club Family Resource Center’s Glow Walk, set for April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

“We will walk down Broad Street as a group, carrying glow in the dark pinwheels,” Bartleson said.

The walk will begin in the parking lot of the Serve Rome building at First United Methodist Church on East Second Street and end at the Chamber with a short ceremony.

“We are expecting a pretty big turnout just based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far,” Bartleson said. “This will be a time to gather, to build each other up, and let families know there’s a network of support for them.”

The FRC also is offering their ABCs of Safe Sleep Class. In its third year, this online learning course helps educate parents about sleep safety for newborns.

“Any family who has an infant up to 4 months of age and is without a crib may take this class and receive a free pack-and-play with bassinet,” Bartleson said. “The pack-and-plays will be issued upon the completion of the class and have been made available by the generosity of the Junior Service League of Rome.”

Eligible persons may register for the ABCs of Safe Sleep Class by calling 706-290-0674 or by emailing tina@exchangeclubfrc.org.

Collins said the RFCCCY is still accepting applications through Friday for mini grants.

“If there are any nonprofit youth organizations that want to apply for the mini grant, they can find all the information on our Facebook page and website, rfcccy.org,” she said.

A shared mission

Bartleson said the FRC’s entire mission focuses on child abuse prevention efforts.

“We want families to have healthy support systems,” she said. “Abuse and neglect often happen because there is a lack of information about what might be going on with the child so we equip parents with the right information, resources, skill sets, and encouragement they may need when facing obstacles.”

Bartleson understands that there may be common developmental goals, but that every child is unique — that it takes understanding each child on an individual level in order to truly equip parents to see their child thrive.

“We want to help parents in understanding where their child is coming from because all children are different,” she said.

The FRC helps to provide practical advice in areas such as stress management and budget planning. And Bartleson notes that a support system is key.

“What we gather from parents is that a supportive relationship is what is needed most,” she said. “We have had parents who don’t have help in any way and are completely overwhelmed.”

That’s where the FRC comes in.

“What I love about our services is that we meet our families where they are,” Bartleson said. “I think one thing that’s powerful about prevention, and about our program, is that when families connect with other agencies you are getting a kind of a valve to release some of the parenting pressure.”

Collins said the Rome Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth, founded in 1989, has a broader mission. But it’s been partnering with the FRC since it was created in 1991.

“The commission is all about collaboration in the community. Our motto is ‘partnering to empower,’” Collins explained. “We want to make sure that we partner with different organizations, churches, families, and businesses in the community to ensure that our children and families are able to be productive citizens — not only in Rome, but across the world.”

This year the two agencies have changed the way they work together. Bartleson said they have a lot more cross-promotion in terms of the community.

The collaboration complements both agencies and has strengthened their overall goal of seeing children and youth be able to thrive and succeed.

“I think that’s what it’s all about,” Collins said. “To be able to decrease child abuse and neglect is a community solution. The only way that we’re going to continue to decrease our numbers is by working together as a community.”

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