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Carroll County Cares

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Drug, alcohol abuse a factor in many cases of child abuse

By Jeff Moore

The rains stopped mid-afternoon Friday just in time for the Carroll County Cares celebration on the courthouse lawn to raise awareness of child abuse in the community.

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Sponsored by Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County, the event included fun and games, inflatables and free hamburgers and hot dogs for the more than 400 who attended to stress the message of child abuse prevention.

Champions chairwoman Leigh Ann Roberts told the crowd there were 403 reports of child abuse in Carroll County last year, noting that not all of them were founded.

“That’s a bad number,” Roberts said. But she explained there were many that more than likely were not reported.

Roberts said the Champions group works to reduce and prevent alcohol and substance abuse, which is often a factor in child abuse. About 40 percent of all abuse involves alcohol or drugs, she said.

“All too often (children) are victimized by the people who care for them,” Roberts said.

The law says that adults have the responsibility of reporting suspected cases of abuse, she said. While it may an “uncomfortable” thing to do, Roberts explained it can change what would be a tragic lifetime for a child.

Special guest speaker Terri Breslin of Grant County shared her personal story of tragedy in which her 14-month old granddaughter Kiara Smith was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend.

Breslin, a victim’s advocate, shared the details of her last visit with her granddaughter and how difficult it was after her death. She said it was particularly hard to understand why it happened and the guilt that she felt for letting the abuse “get past me.”

The weeks after the child’s death were frustrating, she said, because she wanted to make sure her granddaughter got the “justice she deserves.” Breslin said it took five weeks for police to arrest the boyfriend, who was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

“If you see or suspect something, report it,” Breslin told the crowd.

She noted that just in the few moments she spoke, 40 children will be abused, and before the evening event was over, five children will die from abuse.

To honor those who have suffered at the hands of abusers, Champions handed out blue balloons for release during the evening. A total of 403 balloons were released at 7 p.m., filling the sky at the courthouse with shades of blue.

In a Monday interview, Roberts said feedback for the event was “100 percent positive.”

She noted that this event was Breslin’s first time speaking as a victim’s advocate. “I think it really touched a lot of people,” she said.