Blue Ribbons on Hospital Tree Commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time set aside to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect, and to encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.

On April 6, supporters of the Talbot County Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) carried on an annual tradition by tying blue ribbons to the spruce tree in front of the Memorial Hospital at Easton, where the CAC is located. Each ribbon represents a child who, in the last year, received services through the CAC, which is a partnership between the Talbot County Department of Social Services (TCDSS) and Shore Health System.

The Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse began in 1989.  April Sharp, director for TCDSS, explains, “This symbol was established when a Virginia grandmother lost her grandson to child abuse. After his death, she tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her van to alert her community to the ultimate tragedy of child abuse. We use the blue ribbons as a reminder to support the safety of children in our community.”

In 2009, the Talbot County CAC provided forensic interviews, forensic medical examinations, advocacy services and mental health services for 66 children. Many more cases of child abuse and neglect are investigated annually by TCDSS and law enforcement officials.

An accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance, the CAC uses a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate and prosecute child abuse in Talbot County. The State’s Attorney’s office directs the crimes charged through the criminal justice system, working toward conviction and sex offender registration either by way of trial or guilty plea. The State’s Attorney meets with CAC team members on a weekly basis to ensure that the victims and their non-offending family members suffer as little further trauma as possible as the abusers are brought to justice.

The CAC also provides forensic medical examinations for children from Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. The CAC team includes Fayette Engstrom, MD, who serves as medical director, Shore Health System nurses trained in sexual assault investigations, and representatives from TCDSS, law enforcement and the State Attorney’s office. Under the direction of TCDSS, For All Seasons provides advocacy services for the non-offending family members, who may require social services and support.