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    April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last year in North Carolina, more than 100,000 children were reported to Child Protective Services as alleged victims of child abuse or neglect and 24,597 of these children were confirmed as victims or found in need of services. Thirty four children died from child abuse homicides during the 2006 calendar year. 
    An average of two infants are killed or left unprotected to die every year. Every two weeks, a North Carolina child is either killed by a parent or caregiver in some form of child abuse. These are alarming statistics that can haunt any community.     
    Cumberland County Schools, Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, private and home schools have joined together to remember these children by hosting the “Break the Chain of Child Abuse” ceremony on Friday, April 18, at 9 a.m. at the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.
The ceremony, in its 10th year, was started by the Guardian Ad Litem Program and relies heavily on the Cumberland County School System and social workers to disseminate the child abuse information to parents, students and the community.    
    “This is a great opportunity to highlight to the community that children can be empowered to help break the chain of child abuse,” said Valerie Haynes, district administrator for the Guardian Ad Litem Program. “During the ceremony Mayor Tony Chavonne and Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. David Fox will proclaim the month of April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month for Cumberland County and Fort Bragg Schools.”
    The Fort Bragg Intermediate Chorus will perform inspirational songs for entertainment and The Child Advocacy Center will show videos concerning child abuse, Internet safety and the military. There will also be a presentation to inform children about appropriate and inappropriate touching.     
    Three Champion for Children Awards will be presented, with one going to a professional, one to a volunteer and one to an agency or group. The award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond an intervention or prevention of child abuse in Cumberland County.  The professional nominees are Lisa Pierce, Lt. Lynette Hodges, Lee Roberts, Debbie Jenkins, Pamela Love and Nan Trogdon. The volunteer nominees are Holly Van Dyke, Robert Barden and Joyce Paylor. The agency or group nominations include Blue Jean Ball Youth Planning Committee, Tiffany Pines Community Outreach Program, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and Cumberland County Multi-disciplinary Team. All nominations were provided through community referrals.           
    “The blue ribbon is the symbol that represents child abuse prevention and is a reminder that everyone has a role in protecting children and supporting families,” said Natasha Scott, social work coordinator for Cumberland County Schools.
    She noted that children who are neglected or emotionally abused may have difficulty learning to talk, find it hard to develop close relationships, be overly friendly with strangers, think badly of themselves and underachieve at school. Maltreatment includes physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Most child maltreatment occurs in the family home. Young children — up to 3-years-old —  are at the greatest risk for maltreatment. “If anyone suspects a child is being abused or neglected they can call social services at 677-2450 or law enforcement,” said Scott.               
    The culmination of the ceremony involves all participants gathering around the room for a heart touching activity. 
    “At the end of the program we all gather around the room and staple our construction paper chains together and then everyone breaks the chain of child abuse,” said Haynes.                     
    The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP for the event call 321-3824.       
    If you would like more information about child abuse or resources call 486-9700. 

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