April is both Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On Thursday, the Henagar Public Library hosted an event on sexual assault and child abuse presented by the Family Services of North Alabama.

Guest speakers from Family Services included Zaira Parga, Eric Henderson, Katelynn Casewell, Jennifer Lugo, Alecia Caudill and Sherrie Hiett.

Family Services of North Alabama is a family service center that strives to inspire, empower and invoke positive changes in our community through education, resource networking, advocacy and counseling.

Founded in 2002, Family Services is a private, non-profit agency governed by a board of directors made up of community volunteers.

Family Services of North Alabama has numerous programs designed to strengthen family's and serve victims of sexual assault.

At Thursday's event, Eric Henderson spoke about the Parenthood Initiative Program and what it entails. The Parenthood Initiative Program is a court-ordered and voluntary program designed to assist non-custodial parents in providing for their children.

"What we do is give you the tools, the resources, and we help you set up and build goals," said Henderson.

The program includes helping put parents in a better financial situation, a better emotional and economic situation, and provides them with other skills to help improve their parenting.

"Life has a lot of burdens, so we try to ease those burdens. It's all about setting the parents up for success because society likes to set us up to fail," said Henderson. "We set them up to be the parents they've always wanted to be, and the parents we know they can be."

Community Awareness Coordinator Zaira Parga is a bilingual advocate and handles all the cases of sexual assault in DeKalb County. Her leading service is SASS (Sexual Assault Support Service). The SASS program provides free advocacy and counseling for victims of sexual assault in DeKalb and Marshall counties and surrounding areas.

Parga said Family Services even does presentations at schools. "Anywhere in the community, wherever you want us, just invite us, and we will present and talk about our services," she said. "I know sexual assault is such a taboo subject, and no one wants to talk about it, but it's there."

Parga said abuse is on the rise. "Especially now with COVID-19, people have to stay at home and deal with their abuse every single day."

All services provided by the agency are free of charge.

Family Services provides the following programs:

• Parenthood Program

• Community Awareness

• Co-parenting Classes

• Sexual Assault Support Services

• Internet Safety

• Digital Parenting 101

• Lice Project

• Youth Suicide Prevention

For more information, contact:

Family Services of North Alabama 203 South Emmett Street Albertville, Al 35950

Office: 1-256-878-9159

Crisis Line: 1-855-878-9159

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