VERSAILLES – Exactly when Gov. Mike Pence was leading a similar event in Indianapolis, Michelle Russell, Indiana Department of Child Services Ripley County director, welcomed 60 attendees to “this most critical cause,” a National Child Abuse Prevention Month ceremony April 8 at the Ripley County Annex.
She noted, “Last year 24,731 reports of child abuse and neglect were substantiated in Indiana – 87 in Ripley County. Currently DCS services over 13,500 – 51 in Ripley County.”
“The key to preventing child abuse is to become involved,” Russell emphasized. “Check on and reach out to families who are isolated.” To avoid neglect and abuse, families should be urged to become connected with sports, faith and other activities.
Frank Goodpaster, Osgood, Ripley County Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse chair, said he is always surprised to meet people unaware of the group’s existence. “What we do, I think, is important.” He pointed out the Department of Child Services, Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), courts and police “deal with problems and we try to prevent them.”
Council meetings, which are open to the public, are held the third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Ripley County extension office. “I would encourage you to come and be a part of it.”
The next speaker was Joyce Holland, Batesville, a council member and CASA Ripley County liaison. She explained the volunteers “give children a voice in court. We investigate, we visit them” and make sure their rights are not being violated during abuse and neglect cases. With 12 active volunteers, “I certainly need a whole lot more” in Ripley County. There are 15 children on a waiting list for advocates. Persons who would like to undergo CASA training and volunteer may contact Holland at 812-212-6867.
Of child abuse, Holland said, “I had no idea how big the problem is” here. She pointed out, “Traumatized children become adults with problems.”