April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and local organizations are rising to the occasion to spread the word about child abuse awareness and prevention within the county.
The Dawson County Woman's Club, and their offshoot high school group Juniorettes LEAD, spent an afternoon last week placing pinwheels in the ground in front of Grace Presbyterian Church in downtown Dawsonville.
The eye-catching, wind-twirling pinwheels are a conversation starter, and hard not to notice according to Woman's Club Domestic Violence Project Coordinator Nancy McNeill.
"I couldn't tell you how many people will comment on this and ask what the pinwheels are for," McNeill said. "They do what they're supposed to do, they raise awareness."
The pinwheels are just one of many projects that the Woman's Club domestic violence committee tackles throughout the year. The group also works closely with No One Alone, or NOA, a women and children's domestic violence shelter based out of Dahlonega.
McNeill said that every second and fourth Wednesday of each month, the club will take dinner to Grace Presbyterian for the women who are having their counseling sessions there. They also collect donations for the shelter throughout the year, and bring more awareness to the cause during October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, by wearing purple and having programs with speakers from NOA.
According to Dawson County Family Connection Coordinator Nancy Stites, domestic violence and child abuse in particular appear to have high rates of occurrence in the county as compared to the rest of the state.
According to the latest numbers from the Kids Count Data Center, there were 73 reported incidences of children who had been abused or neglected in 2014, up from 46 in 2013.
The rate per 1,000 children in Dawson was 14.4, while the state average was 10.2. Stites said however that the higher number in the county does not mean that more children are abused here as opposed to other counties.
"You have to look [the Department of Family and Children Services] increase in staff, meaning numbers could easily go up," Stites said. "Also the ‘personality' of the community- we may very well be a community that reports suspected abuse and neglect more than others."
Stites said that apart from 911, the local DFCS is the best place to report child abuse if citizens observe or suspect it. The Dawson County DFCS office can be reached at (706) 265-6598.
Sites said that during the month of April, Dawson County Family Connection will be spreading awareness by distributing yard signs with a pinwheel to several locations in the county, putting an awareness sign on the digital billboard on Hwy. 53, posting child abuse prevention messages on their Facebook page every day and handing out pinwheels and beach balls with an awareness message at Kindergarten registration.
Stites also said that Grace Presbyterian Church in downtown Dawsonville is hosting a Foster Parenting Informational Meeting on April 24 from 6 to 7 p.m.
"There is a tremendous need for foster families in Dawson County," Stites said. "It's another major issue we're working on, so that kids that are placed in foster care can continue to go to the same school and don't have to move to other counties."