Advocacy center launching child abuse awareness campaign

Representatives of the Department of Social Services are joined by Kent County Commissioners and the state’s attorney Tuesday as they receive a proclamation for their child abuse awareness and prevention initiative Connect in Blue launching this month. From left are Mattie Meehan, Lisa Falls, Shelley McMath, Rachel Boyle, Commissioner Tom Mason, Commissioner Bob Jacob, Shelly Neal-Edwards and State’s Attorney Bryan DiGregory.

CHESTERTOWN — The Kent County Child Advocacy Center, through the Department of Social Services, is seeking local leaders to help “Connect in Blue” in an effort to prevent child abuse.

Rachel Boyle, the center’s coordinator, appeared before the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday with representatives of the Department of Social Services and the state’s attorney in tow to discuss the launch of the Support, Connect, Empower! initiative and the Connect in Blue project.

The commissioners issued a proclamation to Boyle, Department of Social Services Director Shelly Neal-Edwards, additional staff members and State’s Attorney Bryan DiGregory declaring April Child Abuse Awareness Month, urging “all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, medical facilities, and businesses to increase their participation in our efforts to support families, thereby preventing child abuse and neglect and strengthening the communities in which we live.”

Boyle told the commissioners that a banner highlighting the Support, Connect, Empower! initiative and the Connect in Blue project is currently hanging above the train tracks crossing High Street in Chestertown. She said the banner symbolizes the Child Advocacy Center’s vision to “support voices, create connections and empower the futures of our children impacted by child abuse.”

The initiatives are supported by the Kent County CARES Foundation, which “fills gaps in services to children and families,” according to its listing as a member agency on the United Way of Kent County website.

“We know that child abuse occurs in every community and the ripple effect is profound. It is our hope to infuse a greater collective effort to stand up for children and prevent child abuse,” Boyle wrote in a letter to local leaders seeking their participation in the effort.

In her letter, Boyle wrote that Support, Connect, Empower! needs local leaders who will “evoke awareness, share information and formulate connections.” To do so, participants sign up through the Connect in Blue portion of the initiative.

“The Connect in Blue Project is developed to unify the community in prevention of as well as increase awareness of child maltreatment,” Boyle wrote. “We can make an impact in our community and specifically in the lives of our future leaders, our children.”

Boyle spoke to the commissioners about events planned this month to support the effort, starting with First Friday in Chestertown, April 5. There will be a resource table set up in front of the She She on High store, with giveaways and Kent County Child Advocacy Center staff on hand to answer questions.

“We have the First Friday event this coming Friday to just give more information and resources out to the community and to talk about this issue, and also raise awareness within the community and allow people to have a space where healing is possible,” Boyle said.

Boyle said the commissioners’ proclamation will be read as part of a ceremony and reception to be held Tuesday, April 9, with a representative of the Maryland Children’s Alliance expected to be on hand.

Then, on Saturday, April 13 the center will host Pinwheels at the Park in Chestertown’s Fountain Park during the weekly farmers market.

“This will be a children and family activity. Children will come and actually create pinwheels and have some takeaways,” Boyle said, adding that the event seeks to support families and provide resources.

On Friday, April 26, Kent County residents are encouraged to show their support on Belonging Blue Day.

“Take pictures of yourselves wearing blue, post it on Facebook pages and tag @KentCountyDSS, so that we can again, just kind of pull everything together at the end of the month and showcase support and rally around child abuse prevention and our efforts to work together to end it,” Boyle said at the commissioners meeting.

For more information or to sign up to participate in the Connect in Blue project, contact the Kent County Child Advocacy Center at 410-810-7611.

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