Unsung Hero Helping to Prevent Child Abuse Every Single Day

Our Conversation With Deborah Chosewood of the Office of Prevention and Family Support

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Deborah Chosewood is Deputy Director of the Office of Prevention and Family Support in the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. She is one of the biggest champions of our program in the state office, so we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce her to you.

The Office of Prevention and Family Support is tasked with working in partnership with community-based organizations committed to reducing the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Programs supported by this office include programs that offer services such as parenting courses and all levels of prevention that help local communities promote the overall health and well-being of Georgia's children. Reach Out and Read Georgia is among the programs that receive support through the Office of Prevention and Family Support.

"We've discussed," Deborah says, "whether or not this prevents abuse and neglect, and I think it really does." She continues to explain that the Reach Out and Read model helps with the parent-child bond. She also cites the part of the protocol when the physician talks with parents about how to interact with the child with a book as a teachable moment for parents. "It engages them in the process and gives them tools. And any chance to get books in the hands of children is a great thing..."

An avid reader her entire life, Deborah grew up in rural New York where the bookmobile drove up in the summers. She loved going to the bookmobile, loved children's books, and some of her favorite times with her own children were reading together every night, up until they were middle school age. Now she has a four-year-old granddaughter who loves to read and who has also adopted the evening routine of reading together with her parents (Deborah's son, and daughter-in-law). Reading has always been a passion of theirs as a family, Deborah says, so when she first met Amy Erickson, Executive Director for Reach Out and Read Georgia, years ago, she thought immediately that Reach Out and Read was a great program. When she moved over to her current position, she jumped on the opportunity to fund it.

In addition to assigning state and federal funds to various programs or initiatives that address child abuse and neglect, Deborah manages program staff who work with providers to offer oversight. She helps the Director Office of Prevention and Family Support, Carole Steele, an early supporter of Reach Out and Read Georgia, look at the landscape across the state and the nation, to find best practices in improving outcomes for at-risk children.

Deborah also represents the agency at several task forces and advisory groups with an eye toward primary and secondary prevention of child abuse. It's at these meetings, she says, she sees our Executive Director, Erickson, quite a bit. Amy, too, sees the importance of evidence-based practices to support reducing child maltreatment.

When reflecting on the fact that this is a job that really is making a difference in people's lives and is really protecting children, Deborah agrees that she does have a unique opportunity to support programs that are doing good work, and that together they are all making a difference.

Before joining the state office in 2010, Deborah worked doing direct services in early intervention, as service coordinator at Babies Can't Wait, and as the manager of the Children First program with the Department of Public Health.

Deborah says there is a lot of support for programs that provide early interventions and they are making great strides in improving the quality of early childhood experiences.

The real challenge, she says, though, is the high rate of poverty. "Some populations are impacted more than others and there's a direct correlation between poverty and abuse and neglect...and until we can get an handle on income disparities we will also always struggle with abuse and neglect."

Deborah's office also does its part to raise awareness of the good work its partner organizations are doing. Every April, they hold a meet-the-partners expo, inviting everyone in the state office at 2 Peachtree and in the surrounding area to observe April Child Abuse Prevention Month by coming to meet the office's Prevention Partners. Organizations are invited to come show the kind of great work that's happening across the state. "It's a great opportunity for the community to learn about the great services out there, and great opportunity for partners to show our community what they are all about," Deborah says.

If you want to learn more about our partners or if you're part of an organization that aligns with ours, we invite you to get in touch. Please visit our Partner page and reach out to Executive Director, Amy Erickson.

Contact Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111