Heightening awareness on child abuse

By Bill Hunt
Local News - Saturday, October 02, 2004 @ 10:00


There are more than 19,000 children in the care of Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario.

In the 2003-2004 fiscal year more than 1,800 investigations of suspected abuse were conducted by the local CAS and 264 children were admitted to its care.

Those were just a few of the statistics released by the Hastings Children’s Aid Society during the launch of its annual Purple Ribbon Campaign to raise public awareness about child abuse. (The local campaign coincides with the start of Child Abuse And Neglect Prevention Month, which runs throughout October.)

This year’s theme is Child Abuse Can Begin Before Birth: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects.

Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Ernie Parsons, who is also a member of the Hastings Children’s Aid Society’s board of directors, was this year’s keynote speaker at Friday’s campaign launch at the Quinte Mall. Parsons’ adopted son, Sandy, had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The young man died Jan. 29 from a brain aneurysm as a result of F.A.S.

The condition, caused by women drinking while pregnant, can result in physical and mental retardation, Parsons told a group of people gathered at the mall for the launch of the campaign.

Consuming alcohol, even from very early in a pregnancy, can result in defects. On the 20th day of pregnancy a child’s head is formed, said Parsons, and alcohol passes the placenta very quickly. No pregnant woman would disagree that she shouldn’t take drugs, he said.

“Alcohol is a drug and a pregnant woman (who drinks) has just taken a drug,” he added. “There are far too many unborn children in our society who drink and smoke.” F.A.S. is the most common cause of mental retardation, noted Parsons. Forty-two per cent of inmates in federal penitentiaries have F.A.S.

When Parsons and his wife Linda adopted Sandy he was not quite two years old. At that time they didn’t know there was a problem, but by the time he was two and a half it was obvious something was wrong. A person who knew Sandy’s biological mother told Parsons they had known her nine years and never seen her sober.

As Sandy grew older he knew he was handicapped and it bothered him greatly, said Parsons.

Following his son’s death, Parsons introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature, called Sandy’s Law, that requires any place selling alcohol to post signs warning of the effects of drinking while pregnant. The law comes into effect Jan. 1, 2005. In total, 17,600 restaurants and bars, plus 600 LCBOs and 400 Brewers Retail outlets will post the signs.

Friday’s master of ceremonies was radio personality Jack Miller. The CAS’s director of services, Mark Kartusch, also spoke at the campaign launch.

John Fitzpatrick, chair of the Quinte Regional Children’s Foundation, was on hand to accept a cheque for $2,000 from Therese Touchette, branch manager of the Trenton Kawartha Credit Union. As well, an anonymous donor gave the QRCF $25,000 for the third year in a row.

The Hastings CAS has participated in the campaign since 2000. This year the society will be distributing 30,000 purple ribbons in the community, available for a donation. The campaign was initiated in 1992 by the Durham CAS in 1992 and coincides with Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, which was started by the Independent Order of Foresters. In 1993 the campaign was expanded to include the Children’s Aid Societies of the greater Toronto area. In 1998 the Children’s Aid Societies in the greater Toronto area invited other societies to participate. The following year 19 societies participated in the purple ribbon campaign. Last year 45 agencies took part in the campaign.

Events scheduled locally for October include: an address by Michael Piercy, Centre For Addiction and Mental Health Services, to the Belleville Rotary Club Oct. 4; The Hastings CAS/Quinte Regional Children’s Foundation Conference, Domestic Violence: The Impact, a symposium led by Dr. Linda Baker Oct. 7 (this is open to the public); presentations by Chris Margetson to students at Centennial Secondary School and Hastings CAS staff Oct. 26 and 27; multi-restaurant promotion in which pregnant women will be offered complimentary soft drinks or other non-alcoholic beverages. For this event the CAS is partnering with Golden Valley, Montana’s, Red Rock Canyon, Paulo’s Italian Trattoria, Tomasso’s Casual Dining and Jim’s Pizza.