Cool temperatures and light rain did not stop more than 70 people from gathering on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn for a Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness event Tuesday.
The annual event, sponsored by the Monroe County Department of Child Services, brought people together to raise awareness about helping abused children.
“What we’re doing today is very simple, but effective,” said Harmony Gist, director of Monroe County Child Services.
Organizations tailored to children such as Wonderlab, Magic Inc., Community Partners for Child Safety, Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County and Safe Place gave information to attendees about how to help abused children.
Bloomington fire and police departments were also present.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, instated by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to raise awareness about the issue.
Speakers at the event included Tiffany Coleman, a Bloomington resident who dealt with a lifetime of foster care, abuse, molestation and abandonment. She spoke of the effects of abuse in her adult life.
“Sometimes I catch myself asking a lot of questions at work,” she said. “Sometimes I catch myself questioning my parenting choices.”
Coleman said many people helped her in school, such as teachers, a principle and a guidance counselor, to help her survive her abuse.
“I encourage you to be an advocate for your kids and support your kids,” Coleman said. “You can be that person in your child’s life.”
Monroe County circuit court judge Steven Galvin also spoke at the event, pushing for reform of where money is spent to treat child abuse.
“We spend millions of dollars on consequences,” he said. “Every day, we spend money on what happened to children instead of focusing on preventing that abuse and neglect.”
Galvin advocated for investment in early-year development of children and families.
He said if the community focused on those problems, other issues in their lives would be avoided later on, such as health problems, premature mortality, low educational
achievement, mental illness, crime and substance abuse.
“If this community can’t do it, no one can,” Galvin said.
Speakers were followed by a candle-lit procession and a performance by the Saint Charles Children’s choir.
Last year, Indiana had more than 25,000 reported cases of child abuse or neglect.
“People say, ‘Oh, these things won’t happen here,’” Kelli Shannon, resource development coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates, said in an interview. “But they do.”