News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY Child advocates gather Tuesday morning to emphasize the need to do something about child abuse. Speakers said the community has to step up, becoming a part of hands-on solutions.
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published: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Community challenged to 'step up to the pate'
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- There were no ifs, ands or buts at the Pinwheels for Prevention ceremony Tuesday. It takes the entire community to save our children from the horrors of a violent or negligent family.
Held in front of the County Courthouse every year, Pinwheels for Prevention raises awareness about the tragedy of child abuse and the need to find solutions.
Two speakers rose to challenge the community to be a part of those solutions.
Tenth Circuit Judge Peter Estrada, currently assigned to juvenile and family court, told the audience, "This is a call to arms. When I remove a child from a home there is an aftermath.
"Yes, we have kids who have been removed and are in the system. It disrupts everything in their lives. We have to step up to the plate."
Estrada said Highlands is, "blessed with relatives and caring foster families, but there are limitations."
A child's needs have to come first. Tutors are needed to help children through tumultuous times when their education often suffers. Without education, Estrada said, children already burdened may never have a proper chance.
He asked the doctors and dentists in the community to be a part of a foster child's recovery by providing the immunizations needed to able to play sports and provide early dental care.
"What are we doing?" Estrada asked. "What are we doing for our children and our community?"
Jeff Roth, director of the Champion for Children Advocacy Center, went further.
"One area where we've failed with an F," he said, "is the lack of foster homes in our county." There has been progress, Roth added. "Foster homes are no longer for profit. Homes are chosen for providing love with no strings attached." Inappropriate families are now weeded out.
Too many people think providing shelter for children in danger is the responsibility of the state, Roth said. But it is the community's responsibility also.
It's cruel to move children far away from everything they have known because foster homes are in short supply in Highlands County, Roth said. "The focus has to be on finding the best place for a child, not the most convenient."
This community, Roth added has many individuals and church congregations filled with compassion, vision and generosity who want to help.
A new faith-based initiative is evolving, Roth said, to make helping possible. Begun by Missy Albritton and called 1-1-1, the goal is to get church congregations to mentor or even foster a child. "The system is asking the Christian community for help," Roth said. "If we have failed in the past, we can succeed now. Remember the oyster turns a grain of sand a pearl.
"It's not so much what you do. It's what you teach, so children can do for themselves," he said. "Leave your mark."
For information call the Children's Advocacy Center at 402-6815.
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