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Education used to fight child abuse

POSTED: January 1, 2009 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

Jennifer Hatcher, left, outgoing program director for First Steps introduced Kathryn Howison, incoming director, during her presentation on child abuse in Liberty County.

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According to First Steps coordinator Jennifer Hatcher, child abuse is a major problem in Liberty County.
“There are around 200 hundred cases of substantiated child abuse in Liberty County and hundreds more deferred every year,” Hatcher told the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday. “That’s a large number of children abused in our county.”
Hatcher said the purpose of First Steps is to counsel area families during pregnancy and delivery in an effort to curb child abuse. Hatcher and her staff believe education is the best tool for prevention, and work with Liberty Regional Medical Center to educate mothers before their delivery and while they learn to live with their baby.
“We try to see everyone who’s having a baby in Liberty County,” Hatcher said. “It’s open to all families.”
She said many new mothers often just need support if they feel stressed, overwhelmed or isolated.
“Everybody needs a friend when they first have a baby, and we’re that friend,” Hatcher said.
First Steps offers education tools, including counselors and resource guides, for mothers to use during and after their pregnancy.
The organization, which can be found in many communities across the country, tries to help mothers recognize the signs for postpartum depression and other stress or anger issues that can lead to child abuse.
Hatcher said another way to help these women is to provide community support. Because most of its money comes from local donations and grants, First Steps is always looking for support.
Hatcher said First Steps often has community events such as spaghetti dinners and auctions to increase awareness and raise money.
Hatcher announced during the meeting that she will be leaving the area because of her husband’s new military assignment. First Steps’ new coordinator is Kathryn Howison, whom Hatcher introduced to the Rotarians gathered at Western Sizzlin restaurant.
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