By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
As a part of April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month a rally was held Wednesday on the plaza of the Statehouse.
Led by Kerrey Parris-Barnes, Director of the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, over two hundred supporter came to support the agencies cause.
There were many speakers among them State Senators and Representatives. The air of jubilation replete with a marching band from Montgomery’s Carver High school, hide the terrible truth concerning the thousands of children that are abused and neglected in Alabama everyday.
As Alabama’s ONLY agency designated to prevent child abuse and neglect, the agencies goal is to encourage and support each community in the state in their efforts to find new and effective solutions for preventing child abuse before it occurs, and ultimately strengthening Alabama families to prevent this tragedy in the future.
Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) was one of the speakers at the event, “We worked very hard to get a bill out of the Senate that will provide funding for Department of Child Abuse and Neglect. If we look at cutbacks in the state–and we know we are going to have them–this is an area where we cannot have cutbacks,” said Dial.
Also speaking at the rally was Representative John Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa), who has been the Chairman of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect since December 2010.
“The thing that attracted me to the children’s trust fund was this is the only agency in our state dedicated to the irradiation of child abuse and neglect of children throughout Alabama,”said Merrill, “This agency has had a singular charge for our children no else is meeting those needs and they have stayed true the their charge.”
Merrill says that Savannah Hardin, is the kind of example that will show people why it is important to have the ability to influence care providers, those people in leadership wether it is education, the medical profession, social services that come in contact with these families and these children and cause a positive change in children’s lives.
Hardin was a nine year old girl who was reportedly forced to run wind sprints for three and a half hours by her Stepmother and Grandmother in Cullman because she allegedly lied about eating a candy bar. Hardin died as a result of her abuse.
Another supporter who spoke to the gathering was Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman). “We still have a big problem in Alabama with Child abuse, even though we see the statistics going down we still have a serious problem,” said Bussman, “With the budget cuts their is a concern that we will see incidence increase again.”
Bussman also stated that, “These children don’t have a vote, they can’t lobby us, they can’t come down here or send us letters, most of the time these children are afraid to tell anyone about their situation. So, we have to understand that we have to protect them.”
All three men said that stand firmly behind Director Kerrey Parris-Barnes, the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention.