Pick on somebody your own size - Clay Wilson

I'm sick and tired of this. I'm sick and tired of hearing about adults brutally killing children.

I know this has been going on for a long time, but lately it's been hitting home way too often.

There is the case of 11-year-old Joella Reaves, whose parents are accused of tying her up, starving her and beating her to death.

There is the case of 5-year-old Tacara Judon and 10-year-old Ronald Porter. Judon is dead and Porter is in critical condition after their mother's ex-boyfriend allegedly broke into their house and beat them both with a lug wrench.

It's bad enough when adults kill other adults. But when adults kill children n the very ones whom, by nature, they're supposed to protect n nature itself seems perverted.

"What have children to do with it, tell me, please?" asks a character in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" after witnessing a child torn to pieces by hounds on the orders of an angry Russian nobleman. The quote appeared in a 1990 Time Magazine essay on evil by Lance Morrow, and it has stuck in my head ever since I recently reread it.

Another quote that has stuck in my head came from a 10-year-old neighbor of Judon and Porter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The little girl said something like, "I wish that adults could work things out with each other instead of taking it out on kids."

Though I know it contradicts my newly embraced semi-liberalism, if I had my way the perpetrators of the aforementioned crimes would, upon conviction in a very speedy trial, be immediately killed in the public square.

But it has been said, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." So in an effort to bring a little illumination into this otherwise dark scenario I called Prevent Child Abuse Henry County (PCAHC), a non-profit local organization working to do just what its name says.

I spoke with Robin Jones, who for the past six years has coordinated the group's First Steps program. In this initiative, trained volunteers visit new parents at the hospital with educational materials and contact information for other community resources.

The volunteers follow up with the parents over the next three months, making sure they are getting the support they need.

"We hope that through giving them information ? we can prevent a lot of abuse and neglect that might happen just through ignorance," Jones said.

The program also has a 24-hour helpline that "maybe just gives (parents) a break or a sense of relief or somebody who can reassure them," according to Jones.

Besides First Steps, PCAHC works to raise awareness of child abuse in general. Each year the group sponsors a "Pinwheels for Prevention" event in which each pinwheel commemorates the county's reported abuse cases. Last year 1,160 pinwheels dotted the McDonough Square.

A former child welfare worker and the parent of a 9-year-old and 1-year old, Jones shared my horror at child abuse.

"You wonder how someone could become that enraged to hurt a child when you see how innocent they are," she said as her youngest chattered in the background. "It's beyond comprehension. Parenting is frustrating, but you wonder how it gets to that point."

Beyond comprehension, indeed. Or, as Ivan Karamazov asks, "What have children to do with it, tell me, please?"

For more information on Prevent Child Abuse Henry County, or to volunteer or donate to the group's programs, call (770) 507-9900. PCAHC's 24-hour First Steps helpline is (770) 389-7059. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia has a child abuse hotline at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-53736) and a Web site at www.preventchildabusega.org.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.