Protecting kids: Community partners re-sign Child Abuse Protocol

Published 7:13 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Former Miss America Mallory Hagan spoke at Wednesday’s Child Abuse Awareness Day, where local groups involved with the Child Advocacy Center re-signed the Child Abuse Protocol. Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services hosted the event. 

The center works with local law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and the Division of Family and Child Services on child abuse cases. The child abuse protocol ensures counties implement best practices to investigate and treat all cases of child abuse and neglect.

“We started doing this in 2008, so not only is it an opportunity to memorialize the children and bring an end to child abuse, but it’s also an opportunity for all of the partners who work together in LaGrange to come together and re-sign the child abuse protocol,” said Sheri Cody, Twin Cedars executive director.

The event featured Hagan, who won Miss America in 2013, as the keynote speaker. 

Hagan said most of the women in her family have been sexually abused and that speaking out on child sexual abuse was part of her platform as Miss America. Hagan said she has previously worked with child advocacy centers.

“I think more people need to hear that this story is not one that’s for certain families or just for certain neighborhoods. It crosses generational boundaries and geographic boundaries and socioeconomic boundaries,” Hagan said. “So, we all need to collectively work together to prevent it. And if we can’t prevent it, then work together to help the kids who are impacted by child abuse to have a better future. One that helps them be happy, productive, contributing members of our society.”

Georgia House Rep. Randy Nix gave closing remarks at the event. He said that while the members of law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, DFCS and Twin Cedars do important work, child abuse should not exist.

“Don’t you wish we would not have this next year?” Nix said. “I wish that we could do away with all of your jobs before next year … But I also know the other side of that, and that is the fact that you’re all understaffed and the work needs to be done.”

The ceremony ended with first through third grade students from Hillside Montessori singing “Light a Candle for Peace” and releasing butterflies. Cody said about 150 butterflies were released to represent the 150 children currently in foster care because of abuse in Troup County.

CAC director Kim Adams said the event was an opportunity to recognize and celebrate those who work to protect the children. The Child Advocacy Center receives referrals of child abuse from law enforcement and DFCS.

“Kind of like what Randy Nix said, you wish you didn’t have to have it. You wish you didn’t have to have this job, but the [good] thing is we have a great community that comes together to meet the needs of these children and protect them,” said Shay Thornton, Troup County DFCS director. “To me, it’s just a part of everyday life is to prevent child abuse and today’s just an extra special day for it.”

The center’s purpose is to protect children during the abuse investigations and legal processes. The CAC also conducts forensic interviews and forensic medical exams. During the interview, the child and the interviewer talk in a separate room from the multidisciplinary team, which observes from another room.

“I’m really impressed by all of the people who showed up to support what the Child Advocacy Center does and the purpose of the child protocol, which is for the community and all the agencies that help protect children to be on the same page,” said District Attorney Herb Cranford.

Cody said re-signing the protocol is important to Twin Cedars 

“In the end, it’s important that Troup kids matter,” Cody said.