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The St. Clair County Commission declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and commended the St. Clair Children's Advocacy Center for its 20 years of service to the families and children of our community. Pictured with the County Commissioners, Commission Chairman Stan Batemon, Commissioners Paul Manning, Jimmy Roberts, Ken Crowe and Jeff Brown is Pam Kelley, Executive Director of The Children's Place.

The St. Clair Children’s Advocacy Center, also known as The Children’s Place joins forces with the community this month to observe Child Abuse Awareness Month to raise awareness about the importance of addressing issues surrounding child abuse.

“We have to let people know this is a real problem in our community,” Parent Educator/Education Assistant Cheryl Fagan said.

April was first declared Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month by presidential proclamation in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan was in office.  

Since then April has served as time to acknowledge the importance of families working together to prevent child abuse,” Fagan said.

To kick off the month, The Children’s Place is hosting the Blue Ribbon 5K Run and 1-mile Fun Run at Lakeside Park on Saturday, April 6.  Participants can register for the run on the web at Active.com or register the day of the race.  Registration opens at 7 a.m., and the race begins at 8 a.m. and the fun run starts at 8:30 a.m.  Registration fees for the 5K are $20 and $25 the day of the race.  Fun Run registration is $10 and $15 on race day.

They will also host the Blue Ribbon Luncheon fundraiser on Tuesday, April 23 from 11 am.-1 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Pell City.  Assistant Superintendent of Pell City Schools Michael Barber  will serve as emcee for the event.  Entertainment includes performances by Amy Drinkwater, First Baptist’s Kindergarten Kids, Coosa Valley Kids Choir and the Pell City High School Showstoppers.

Community businesses are also getting involved to help raise awareness.  Pell City Coffee Company is donating 10 percent of all sales from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. today and tomorrow and 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday to The Children’s Place.  Store owner Tommy Barrows is creating special menu items like blueberry muffins for the fundraiser.

Since The Children’s Place opened their doors to the community 20 years ago, they have worked to raise awareness about child abuse by providing numerous programs to the community.  Last year The Children’s Place conducted 167 interviews for reports of child abuse.

Programs include an in-home parenting program where staff visits the home to help young moms with parenting issues with children from prenatal to three-years-old.

“We focus on developmental issues that are inevitable but different with every child,” Fagan said.  “Brain development is so important for the first three years of life for potential success in school.”

Last year The Children’s Place visited 34 families.  The program lost funding in September after the new fiscal year began, but Fagan said they are in the process of looking for funding to restart the program.

The Children’s Place also offers the Transitions program, a court-ordered program for couples with children under the age of 18 who are getting divorced.

“Transitions is the only program we charge a fee for because it is court mandated,” Fagan said.  “All of our other programs we offer are free.”

Through the program, The Children’s Place served 230 adults and 91 children last year.

The Children’s Place biggest impact on the community is their school programs.  They visited every K-8 classroom in both Pell City and St. Clair County Schools, reaching out to more than 7,500 students last year.

“We have such a great cooperation with both school systems and wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Fagan said.

When volunteers and staff members visit schools to talk to students, they discuss age appropriate topics beginning with things like bullying and teasing, learning about how to ask for help and what abuse is.  They teach older students about harassment and Internet safety.

 Throughout the month The Children’s Place hopes the different events will generate awareness that leads to more preventative measures against child abuse.

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