Protecting kids

The sunny, warm weather on Sunday afternoon was perfect for a walk and provided a cheery atmosphere for the not-so-bright topic of child abuse.

Washington County Children Services held its third annual Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Walk Sunday at Muskingum Park. The walk, which started at the park, followed the River Trail to the Lafayette Hotel and circled back two city blocks up Front Street, ending back at the park. It was accompanied by inflatables for children and lots of food.

Alice Stewart, assistant director of the Washington County Children Services said child abuse is a topic that needs awareness.

“It’s a problem everywhere,” Stewart said. “We definitely have our fair share (in Washington County). There’s no group that’s immune to abuse or neglect.”

She said the event is a part of Child Abuse Awareness Month, where groups all across the state are dedicated to bringing awarness to an issue that is more common than many think. Last year’s walk drew approximately 200 people.

Case Worker Amanda Herron said this event is something fun to put on.

“This is my favorite part of what we do,” Herron said. “It’s a chance to prevent something (child abuse) that’s such a big part of what we do. We have a lot of support in our community we’re grateful for.”

Keitha Schilling, 38, of Beverly, attended with her husband, Joe, and three children.

This was their first walk and Keitha said being a newly certified foster family prompted them to attend.

“We just got certified; we are new at this and just decided to start our foster care journey,” she said, adding she decided it would be good to “just to be able to help the children.”

Her husband, Joe, said he is glad the walk can help raise awareness.

“Just to support the child abuse (awareness); it’s a bad thing in this area and I’d like to see everyone support it,” he said.

Their daughter Lilli, 10, said she was excited for the event.

“I like to play with the kids,” she said, adding it was nice to take care of the other children and help out.

Dee McKenzie, 40, of Marietta, said the event brings another kind of awareness.

“I think this event brings a lot more of awareness to (Washington County) Children Services and what they do,” she said. “With April being Child Abuse Awareness Month, this is just a great way of getting the information out there that we foster and adoptive parents need.”

Herron said the event is a good way to show people the organization is there for the children.

“This event is for the kids,” Herron said. “That’s what this is about; we give them a safe opportunity to come out. We like the community to know we’re here…we’re not the enemy, we’re here for (the kids).”

McKenzie’s husband, Tim, 36, said there is a need for more than just child abuse awareness across the county.

“I think there’s a need for more foster and adoptive parents in our community too,” he said.

Angela and Lloyd Hughes, of Little Hocking, also attended the event with their adopted daughter, Haley.

“We are foster and adoptive parents, so that’s why we come,” said Angela, 40.

The event is a nice way for other foster and adoptive parents to meet and talk, which doesn’t usually happen very often, Hughes said.

Hughes added that the event helps raise more awareness than there might have been before.

“I think it brings a lot more awareness out,” she said. “There are some not as aware as foster parents. When we became foster parents, we became more aware. I think if it helps bring awareness, people will know what to look for. I think it’s a bigger problem than people realize.”

Stewart said those suspecting child abuse can call Washington County Children Services at anytime.

“You can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays,” she said. “There are no holidays…Anytime somebody needs to call us, we are available…Child abuse never sleeps.”