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Bladen Child Abuse Awareness event mixes fun, serious issue

The weather was ideal Saturday afternoon for about 50 people to walk a mile from the Food Lion parking lot in Elizabethtown to the Bladen County Courthouse. The reason they walked was to draw attention to child abuse in Bladen County.

The seventh annual Bladen County Child Abuse Awareness walk and activities are a way to get the word out about prevention of abuse and to bring families together for an afternoon of fun, says Bladen County Child Protective Services supervisor Jill Sampson.

“It’s to come out and celebrate with kids and families,” Sampson said. “We pass out information to families about how to keep their child safe. And it’s just to try to get the families to interact in a positive way together.”

A couple hundred people of all ages gathered on the courthouse lawn Saturday to listen to music, watch performers and enjoy food and drinks. There were bounce houses, face painting and other activities for the children. And many of the Bladen County Child Protective Services workers joined in at the beginning of the event by doing the “wobble.” Some bicycles were given away to children and other prizes were awarded to adults in attendance.

At the end, balloons were released to remember those children who have suffered from child abuse.

Not a problem?

Think child abuse is not a problem in Bladen County? Think again.

According to Bladen County Department of Social Services statistics, in fiscal year 2014-15, the latest for which statistics are available, there were 31 child abuse cases investigated, 171 neglect cases assessed and 59 home services cases completed. There also was 169 cases “screened out,” which means an investigation found the incident did not meet the definition of abuse, neglect or dependency.

Also, as of Saturday, there were 46 foster children in Bladen County, according to DSS.

State statistics from 2014 show that 133 children died as a result of abuse or neglect.

While Saturday’s event was a day for fun, it was also a day to remind people that the law requires suspected child abuse to be reported, Sampson said.

“Everyone in North Carolina is a mandated reporter,” Sampson said. “If there is suspected abuse or neglect, then we should receive that call. We do get spite reports, unfortunately, but we do have more serious cases that we have to work, and some that we never even know about.”

A case of suspected child abuse or neglect may be reported to Child Protective Services at 862-6800 and ask for the intake social worker. If after hours, weekends or holidays, call 862-4141 and ask for the on call social worker.

“Right now, in Bladen County, as with the rest of our state, substance abuse is a really big issue,” Sampson said. “Prescription medications, mental health … those things can trickle down to the cause of neglect, whether it’s improper supervision or discipline.

“When we’re looking for abuse signs, we’re looking for physical abuse and sexual abuse, even emotional abuse. We get a lot of calls from the community where a child may have a suspected bruise on their arm, just not from normal play, or we may get a phone call regarding neglect that a house is not being appropriately cleaned or have what a child needs for their basic needs.”

Bladen County has six Child Protective Services workers and four foster care workers.

“It’s really rewarding to know and to see the end results that you’ve helped a child and their family,” Sampson said. “Our goal is to keep children in their homes. And to provide services to them whether it be domestic violence, parenting, substance abuse, whatever those services are.”

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