The program featured a presentation by Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer and Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater proclaiming April as child-abuse-awareness month, and the reading of a poem by 12-year-old home-schooler Meredith Huffman.
Paul and Janice Huber of Nicholasville, who have been foster parents for nearly 20 years in Washington, D.C., and then in Kentucky, spoke to the crowd. Paul warned that child abuse can become a “generational” problem.
“You’ve got parents whose kids are in care, and the kids grow up, and they are living the same kind of lifestyle that their parents did, because that’s normal to them, because that’s what they learned when they were younger,” he said.
Janice Huber told those gathered that although foster parenting is not right for everyone, willing volunteers who can’t foster can find other ways to help.
“Maybe those people need to become respite-care providers; maybe those people need to become advocates; maybe those people need to work in other volunteer ways,” she said. “If we can all find ways to serve our community, it will strengthen our families in that community, so maybe it’s not foster care for certain people; maybe it’s some other thing.”
Fretwell said the cabinet tries to work with community partners like the schools to educate and prevent child abuse and neglect, although the agency’s primary responsibility is dealing with the issues after they have occurred.
“We try our best to keep children in the homes and work with families,” he said. “We work with kids, and we work for kids, but we’re really working with the families a lot as well as looking for outside resources if it’s a case where the abuse or neglect is severe enough that they would need a foster home that’s supportive or a placement of some sort that’s supportive.”
The event was sponsored by Asbury University’s social-work master’s program in partnership with Panera Bread, Walmart, the Jessamine County judge’s office, Office Depot and Nicholasville Elementary School.