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Conference raises child care issues


Local leaders and various agencies gathered Friday for a conference on several child welfare-related issues. | Nathan Strickland/FCT


A packed parking lot surrounded the A.W. Todd Centre on Friday as multiple organizations gathered for the first annual “Making a difference for Franklin County’s children” conference.

The conference was organized to spread awareness about child abuse and neglect.

“We have a vision to make life better for our Franklin County children,” said Dr. Susan Hargett, community education coordinator for Franklin County. “The more programs we can create for parents, the more the stress level goes down at home, making for a much improved home life.”

The event was funded through a grant provided by the children’s trust fund, which helps to create programs that fight for children’s futures.

“We have really pushed for more programs this year than we ever have,” Hargett said. “I’d really like to thank my staff because without them it may not have been possible to get our message across.”

The conference, which was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. with breaks in between sessions, consisted of several speakers including city and county officials, candidates running for office and child-related organization representatives.

Policy and Kids count director of VOICES for Alabama’s children Melanie Bridgeforth brought in data gathered through the years regarding child related issues that may potentially affect Franklin County’s future.

The county numbers Bridgeforth presented were from 2007 and the overall county ranking was 16th on a scale that projects one being the best.

Some other rankings Bridgeforth presented from kids count data of Franklin County compared to other counties in Alabama includes:

• Low weight births            2nd

• Births to unmarried teens            4th

• Infant mortality            57th

• First grade retention             26th

• Children suffering from child abuse and neglect             30th

• Children in vulnerable families            15th

• Total children in poverty            41st

• Children in single-parent families             25th

Kids count data shows that Alabama currently has a ranking of 48th overall nationally, which Bridgeforth sees as a very poor showing from a state with such great potential.

Bridgeforth said it is always good to be in the top third percent and overall Franklin County looks good on paper, but there are some areas that need to be addressed.

“We always tell people that all we have is the data of what is going on,” she said. “But you all are the experts because you’re here and dealing with these problems on a regular basis.”

Franklin County Probate Judge Barry Moore said as a parent he has found that it is the little things that really have an effect on children.

“We as parents need to just be there for our children, not just to teach them discipline, but to also set down and listen to issues they are facing,” he said. “As adults, people say time flies when you have kids, I truly believe that and we as parents need to make good lasting impressions that will stick with them as they grow up and learn about things.”