April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and an ideal time to remind people of the resources available to Putnam County residents.
"Last year 142 children were abused or neglected in the county and this month is a time to draw attention to the problem," reports Cari Cox, Director of the Putnam County Family Services.
In 1976 a group of volunteer citizens joined together to reduce and prevent family violence in Putnam County. The outcome of the group was the creation of the Putnam County Family Support Services, Inc.
"Abuse includes child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse and neglect," explained Cari Cox, Director of the Foundation.
The agency sponsors and facilitates five programs including Domestic Violence Prevention, Healthy Families, Tot's Time and Moving Beyond Abuse Compassion Workshop. Each of these programs is designed to offer ongoing support, intervention and prevention of family violence.
Among their early projects was the Parent Aide program that started in 1979 and assisted parents in learning non-abusive behaviors toward children when relocating.
In 1980 Tot's Time, a free childcare service offering a morning and evening break for parents with children ages newborn to five years. Approximately 25-35 children attend the Putnam County Program each week now.
A task force developed in 1981 to look at domestic violence learned that over 100 cases of domestic violence occurred in Putnam County the previous year. The group recognized a need for services for those people and in 1983 the Domestic violence Prevention Program was implemented.
Offering 24-hour crisis intervention services by telephone and in person, transportation to shelters, referrals to other resources, legal advocacy, domestic violence education and safety planning as well as ongoing supportive services.
In 1991 a support group for women and children began and continues to date. A teen group was formed in 2001 and has since been expanded into the school setting and is offered to at-risk students in a support group during school hours.
"We don't just serve victims," said Cox. "The Moving Beyond Abuse Compassion Workshop was started with a workshop for male batterers implemented in 1991. We have since expanded services to include women," she added.
This program focuses on teaching batterers how to feel compassion and how to manage their expressions of anger appropriately. This program is provided to both court-ordered and voluntary participants.
In 1994 the Healthy Families home-based visitation program began.
The idea behind it is to support and encourage parents of newborns to reduce their stress, thus reducing family violence.
There were just two Healthy Families employees in 1994 but today the agency has 13 staff members to assist families.
Healthy Families was followed in 1995 by the Putnam County Task Force on Domestic Violence comprised of several key community members.
This group developed a countywide domestic violence protocol.
The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program reaches out to men, women and children who have been victims of abuse. The program is specifically designed to offer victims support, education and advocacy to help them cope.
A children's group is available which focuses on self-esteem, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, safety planning, life skills and social skills.
Recently, the services were expanded into two county high schools and Area 30 by offering support groups for at-risk teens. The Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault certifies this program.
Putnam County Family support Services along with many other organizations such as Mental Health America, Cummins Mental Health, Headstart, Johnson Nichols, Juvenile Probation and the Putnam County Youth Development Commission are dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people in the county and offer an array of services and information.
For information about any of these services contact Putnam County support Services at 765-653-4820.