Community, CASA gather to mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

With the desire to bring awareness, many residents of Clark County were outside the Clark County Courthouse at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

Pinwheels, one representing each child in Clark County involved in court cases of abuse, neglect, and dependency in 2022, were placed in the grass just outside the building.

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The event drew attention from former Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner, Magistrate Robert Blanton, City Commissioner Kenny Book, Clark County Attorney William Elkins, Clark County Health Director Becky Kissick and more.

In the beginning, a proclamation was read by Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed, with Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates also present.

“We acknowledge that we must make every effort as a community to increase awareness about child abuse and contribute to [promoting] the social and environmental wellbeing of children and families in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment,” Reed said. “We hereby proclaim April 2023 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month in Winchester and Clark County.”

As mentioned, pinwheels were available to represent each child in Clark County involved in cases of abuse, neglect and dependency in 2022.

In total, there were 163 such cases as reported by CASA of Madison and Clark Counties.

CASA is an acronym standing for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The organization trains volunteers throughout the community to advocate for children in the family court system.

According to statistics, Kentucky ranks fifth in the nation in total child abuse and neglect cases.

While this is a slight improvement from being ranked first, as was the case at one point, it still offers much room for improvement.

Victoria Benge, the Executive Director for CASA of Madison and Clark Counties, states that it also does not indicate all cases.

“Those are just substantiated cases, meaning the court has enough evidence to say that that happened,” Benge said. “There are a lot more that go unreported or that don’t meet criteria for investigation.”

Winchester resident Brett Cheuvront mentioned that he would like to see the community continue to take action.

“We need people to protect children. I’d love to see all of this as zero [with] none of them up there,” Cheuveront stated. “It would just be amazing to be able to do that. We need more caseworkers that can help the children.”

Echoing Cheuvront’s sentiment, Benge mentioned that being proactive is essential.

“My big thing is to get involved and help these kids, whether that’s through the school or through a church, or whatever group you’re part of. Just watch out for these kids,” she said. “Make sure they’re doing okay and if you ever see something, just say something and report it. That is the way we help these families and these children.”

In 2022, 59 children of Clark County were served by CASA of Madison and Clark Counties.

Mayor Reed, in her proclamation, offered some additional words.

“Our children are vital to our state’s future success, prosperity, and quality of life, as well as being our most vulnerable assets,” Reed said.