As a community and as a state we need to get involved with child abuse prevention efforts.

You know how people say “mind your own business?” Well child abuse in this community IS our business because these are OUR children.

Currently Georgia is 38th in the nation for child and family well-being and the state has adopted a plan to improve that ranking over the next 10 years.

How child abuse prevention is not a higher priority is baffling. The personal and economic costs of child abuse are high. Obviously the pain and lifelong trauma caused to individuals and families is immeasurable. But for each victim of abuse and neglect, there is an estimated lifetime financial impact of $226,822 associated with short- and long-term health care costs, child welfare costs, criminal justice costs, special education costs, and work productivity loss.

By becoming aware, and getting involved, rolling up our sleeves and digging into this serious issue, we can not only save funding for our state, but for Rome and Floyd County as well.

No single program, strategy, or approach will be enough to prevent child abuse in our community. Many different services, programs, practices, and strategies need to be put in place at once. There is no time like the present to support families and children and prevent child abuse.

There are plenty of opportunities as Georgia has put together a statewide Child Abuse Prevention Plan — our first since 1993.

The plan was developed over a one-year period in 2019 and incorporated feedback from focus groups held across the state. Those groups included government and nonprofit agencies, individuals, families, school systems, law enforcement, judicial system representatives and business leaders. The final result is a comprehensive plan that seeks to:

Increase family economic stability

Increase family resiliency

Increase access to early childhood care and education

Increase family mental well-being

Increase family physical health

Increase community knowledge and awareness of the societal factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect and the capacity to prevent it.

But a plan is no good without action. The Office of Prevention and Family Support and Prevent Child Abuse-Georgia are partnering with the CDC to help communicate the plan to communities.

This six-county region — Polk, Haralson, Douglas, Floyd, Bartow and Paulding — will soon pull together representatives across multiple sectors to talk about the plan and identify objectives that are important to the region. Family Resource Center Director Tina Bartleson has been asked to help convene these conversations.

Locally, community agencies and partners are working to identify the issues that most impact Rome and Floyd County through monthly collaborative team meetings led by Director LaDonna Collins of the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth.

The Floyd County Collaborative Team meets the first Thursday of every month and regularly brings forth a new strategy to work on as a group collectively.

During these meetings, concerned citizens, parents and community partners come together to work on and gain insight on the issues that we face in our community.

While the group has been meeting virtually over the last year, May’s meeting will be in person on Thursday, May 6, at 1:30 p.m. at the Goodwill Career Center, 54 Hicks Drive in Rome. A virtual meeting option will be available for those who want to continue to meet via Zoom.

There is a seat saved at the table for you, your church, your club, your business and your family to participate in this process. YOU can make a difference.

To join in on local work on the child abuse prevention plan, email LaDonna Collins at lcollins@rfcccy.org with your email address. You’ll be added to the newsletter list. To join in on the regional work, email tina@exchangeclubfrc.org.

Despite the complex factors that can lead to child abuse, child abuse can be prevented.

Most people are already participating in prevention activities without realizing it. All of Georgia’s children and families should have opportunities and the necessary support to thrive in safe, stable, connected and nurturing communities where they live, work and play.

Let’s do our part to ensure that our children and families have this and much more.

To learn more about the State Child Abuse Prevention Plan visit https://abuse.publichealth.gsu.edu/canpp/

Get involved now. There is no time to waste. Our children are counting on us.

Thank you for reading.

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