COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently marked April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Local organizations are teaming up to make sure the children of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit are provided with the resources they need.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that within the state of Georgia alone 374 young people are abused or trafficked each month. Most of those are children between the ages of 12 and 14.
The Director of the Children’s Tree House Child Advocacy Center says abuse knows no bounds.
“Child abuse can affect anyone regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic class. It crosses all, all demographics. And so being able to try to prevent that but then respond to that abuse is super important for community agencies”Kalen Sieck – Director of the Children’s Tree House Child Advocacy Center
Children’s Tree House serves children ages 0-17 within the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, including Fort Benning. Their number one priority is the children they serve.
“We serve children, children who are potential victims of crime or victims or witnesses to violent crimes. And it’s important that we respond to them again in that trauma sensitive approach and provide those services in order for them to heal and also provide justice for those victims.”Kalen Sieck – Director of the Children’s Tree House Child Advocacy Center
The key to success, in decreasing cases is the communication between the different agencies and organizations throughout our community. Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson says, “It’s critical, not only to leverage each other’s strengths but also to share information.”
Local Child Advocacy Centers say more children have witnessed and experienced more violent crime in our community over the last two years.
“When you think about what we just went through with the pandemic and how they were kind of cut off from some of their normal support system, their teachers, their physicians, without having an opportunity to interact with those individuals, I think some of these cases were missed.”Skip Henderson – Columbus Mayor
Officials say with children at home more frequently they were exposed to violent crime in their communities as well as their own households.
“Juvenile court judges report that they see a lot of it coming through the juvenile courts where it’s one juvenile abusing another juvenile, and they tell me that it is surprisingly common, very, very common. I think it’s like one out of every four kids.”Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge – Gil McBride
That is of the cases that are prosecuted. Judge McBride says many are not.