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3:04 PM Sat, Feb. 16th

Local resident want to display blue ribbons as a reminder of child abuse

Concern for American military personnel in Iraq has prompted some citizens to display yellow ribbons for their safe return.

During the month of April, Barbara Ferguson also wants to display blue ribbons - the color of bruises on a child's body - to remind people that child abuse exists in the Kingman community, and that it is everyone's responsibility to stop it.

"Abuse happens more often than people think," Ferguson, a victims' advocate, said.

She is the Kingman coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) said.

"The state of Arizona is realizing that child abuse is a big problem," she said.

"They are becoming acutely aware of it.

"This county has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the state and Kingman has one of the highest rates in the county."

Child abuse takes on many forms, Ferguson said, including physical abuse and neglect, and a condition frequently associated with child abuse is poverty.

"Almost one-fourth of Arizona's children live in poverty," Ferguson said.

"Arizona ranked 41st in the nation in child well-being.

"A neglected child is one who is not provided enough food and clothing or adequate housing, and is basically ignored."

Children whose parents are alcoholics or involved in the making, selling or using of drugs often suffer the most, Ferguson said.

Anyone who suspects that a child has been abused or neglected can call (888) SOS-CHILD, a hotline number.

The Child Protective Services worker who takes the call writes out a report.

If physical injury or sexual abuse is suspected, a copy of the CPS report will be given to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

If child neglect is suspected, a CPS specialist will visit the home to see whether the child is safe or if the family needs help of any kind.

Signs that a child is being neglected include poor school attendance or tardiness, falling asleep in school, chronic hunger, begging or stealing food and reports of no caretaker in the home.

Signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, welts, burns, lacerations or burns on a child's body.

Behavioral indicators on the part of the child include: requests or feelings of deserving punishment, fear of going home, excessive shyness, avoidance of physical contact, behavioral extremes and questionable explanations for injuries, according to the Arizona Chapter of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.

If injury or abuse is suspected CPS goes to the home to investigate.

But the child is interviewed at a neutral location away from the home, such as a school or the hospital if that is where the child has been taken, or the Sarah's House Victims Center.

Many times law enforcement will be present.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers help children from newborn infants to 18 years who have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused, or have been abandoned or neglected.

Carol Daley has been a CASA volunteer since 1992, speaking on behalf of abused and neglected children who are caught up in the complexities of the court system and need someone to speak for them.

Now a mentor to new CASA volunteers, Daley said there is no reward greater than helping a child in need.

"One child calls me all the time," she said.

"One day she hugged me and said, 'You are the only person who has not deserted me.' "

More volunteers are needed to connect with a child in need and to provide guidance and stability in that child's life during times of turmoil.

A CASA volunteer follows the child's progress, visits with the child regularly, voices concerns and helps find permanent placement for the child.

A volunteer also attends hearings, works with CPS and reports to the judge through court reports.

During April, Ferguson will be passing out blue ribbons and CASA literature at some area grocery stores.