Austin Moreno, 14, of Fort Meade holds his younger brother Andres as the 2-year-old ties a blue ribbon on a tree during the Blue Ribbon ceremony April 4 at Burba Lake Cottage. The ceremony kicked off the installation's annual observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (April 12, 2012) -- In her welcoming remarks, Celena Flowers related how a Virginia grandmother launched the national Blue Ribbon campaign to remember the victims of child abuse, including the woman's own grandson who died from abuse in 1989.

Flowers, manager of the Family Advocacy Program at Army Community Service, spoke to a small gathering of ACS employees and community members at Burba Lake Cottage to kick off Fort Meade's annual Child Abuse Prevention Month/Blue Ribbon ceremony on April 4.

"Let this be a constant reminder for us to fight for our children," said Flowers as she recounted the roots of the nationwide tradition.

In the spring of 1989, Bonnie Finley had tied a blue ribbon on the antenna of her van to symbolize the blue and black bruises of her grandson, Michael Dickerson, who was repeatedly abused by his father.

In memory of child abuse victims, participants at the ACS ceremony tied blue ribbons on an artificial tree inside the cottage.

The event also featured a reading of Fort Meade's proclamation of Child Abuse Prevention Month by Lt. Col. (P) Edmund Barrett, commander of Headquarters Command Battalion.

Davis Ladd, an assistant director at the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services, gave a brief overview of the Anne Arundel County's Child Protective Services Division.

The invocation was given by Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Sid Taylor. Patsy Jackson, Survival Outreach coordinator at ACS, performed a moving rendition of the Bette Midler song, "The Rose." A lunch of hot dogs, chips and soda was served.

Capt. Debra Stone, chief of Social Work Service at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, gave a brief overview of the prevalence of child abuse within the Army and the Air Force at Fort Meade.

The Family Advocacy Program at Kimbrough investigates reports of alleged child abuse for these two military branches.

The Fleet and Family Support Center at ACS investigates reports of alleged child abuse for the Navy and Marines and also provides education and prevention training.

The Family Advocacy Program at ACS provides education and prevention training to the community and military units on post.

Two years ago, Kimbrough investigated 26 reports of alleged child abuse on Fort Meade. Last year, the figure rose to 45 cases, Stone said.

So far this year there have been 48 reported cases -- 39 of these are due to neglect, Stone said.

"Most people think of neglect as a poverty issue and that's not correct," Stone said after the event. "Child abuse crosses socio-economics, race, culture and military and civilian families. It's a prevalent social problem."

Stone said that while no formal study has been conducted regarding the increase in reported cases on post, the majority of the reports come from families who are new to the Army. The remaining cases are from military families facing some kind of significant stressor, said Stone.

Stressors that often lead to child abuse among military families include deployments, financial problems and marital issues, said Flowers.

Although the number of reported cases of child abuse may be less among military families compared to civilian families, Stone said the problem "is still there."

As Fort Meade observes Child Abuse Prevention Month, Flowers said the message is clear.

"Child abuse is real and it is on the rise," she said. "We all must work together to combat it. We must all help parents to be more resilient."

Page last updated Thu April 12th, 2012 at 00:00