City hosts child abuse awareness event

  • Federal Street School students sing at the child abuse awareness month flag-raising event at the Greenfield Common, led by their teacher Gina Clark on Friday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Mayor William Martin issues a proclamation, making April child abuse awareness month in Greenfield on Friday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan speaks at the flag-raising event for child abuse awareness month in Greenfield, Friday, April 13. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Greenfield Children’s Advocacy Center Director Irene Woods speaks to Federal Street students on Friday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Greenfield City Councilor Otis Wheeler is recognized for attending the flag-raising event for child abuse awareness month at the Town Common, Friday, April 13. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Friday, April 13, 2018

GREENFIELD — This past year, 107 children from 16 of 28 Franklin County and North Quabbin towns came to the Children’s Advocacy Center for possible abuse, director Irene Woods said.

Of the boys who came to the Greenfield center, 1-in-4 of them were reported to be sexually assaulted or abused, while the national average in 1-in-6, Woods added.

The statistics back what Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan says. “Our numbers have always been high, but Franklin County is no different than anywhere else,” he said

It’s numbers like those that prompt Woods and Sullivan to help host an annual flag-raising at the Greenfield Common for the child abuse awareness month.

“We get daily calls for abuse,” Sullivan said. “Fortunately, Department of Children and Families and police work really hard to make sure those families get the protection they need.”

Singing, “We all need peace to come alive” and “With just one small voice,” a couple hundred Federal Street School children helped to set a more positive tone to the day.

“When you have an event like today, it shows how our community recognizes there is a need and is willing to pull together and address that need,” state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru said. “You think about the best of raising children and you want to do it for other children out there.”

After the event on Friday, Mark was on his way to Boston to help file a budget amendment for the statewide children’s advocacy coalition to help leverage $750,000 for the centers. He was also planning to co-sponsoring a bill Friday to bring money specifically to Franklin and Hampshire counties, he said

Mark said “we’re in an area where we’re forced to do more with less,” which leads social service and state agencies to cooperate and is a strength of the region.

“Franklin County is very supportive of services for victims,” Woods said. “Child abuse awareness month is just a month that we have to stand up.”

At Friday’s event, Mayor William Martin issued a proclamation, declaring April child abuse awareness month in Greenfield.

Deb Chickering, who is with the Department of Children and Families, and helps run the local programs and will be retiring this week, said that in addition to the importance of children and families speaking up when something is wrong, another important element to this are foster parents. She said the state agency is in need of foster parents more than ever, particularly as a byproduct of the opioid epidemic, encouraging people to explore the idea.

Sullivan said the opioid crisis and other mental health issues has indeed elevated the issue and, “We really need to have good, healthy places for kids to live.”

The regional district attorney added the nationally-recognized month is an opportunity to remind everyone to “redouble your efforts” to fight the issues that sometimes don’t get talked about.

“This is something people used to ignore, and when you ignore a problem, it gets worse,” Mark said. “You hope no child ever has to deal with it but you encourage children to speak up if something is wrong, or something with their friends.”