BHPC paints downtown “blue” with parade and festival

Published 2:44 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Waves of children and adults made their way down the waterfront and Main Street on Thursday, April 6 as part of Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children’s (BHPC) annual Paint the Town Blue parade and festival.  

Thursday was a culmination of week long events that celebrated Week of the Young Child (sponsored by National Association for the Education of Young Children), but also brought awareness to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The theme of this year’s parade and festival was “Be Kind.” The parade is called “Paint the Town Blue,” because blue is the color for the prevention of child abuse and neglect. 

Each day of the week had a specific focus. Monday was all about music and movement; Tuesday was about making treats; Wednesday was about working together; Thursday focused on an art project where kids made “kind hands” by stamping their handprints on a picture of the world and Friday was about reading with family members. 

“What pleases us so much about it is that it’s a way for us to really bring together our community partners and our children and families because all of the activities and events that were going on [on Thursday] were primarily being offered by our local community partners,” Kris Bowen said. Bowen is the outreach coordinator for BHPC. 

She said the events were a “great collaborative effort that not only celebrates children, their teachers and their parents but also our community at large and how much we value and appreciate our children in our community.” 

The mission of BCPH is “to be the leader in advocating for all children to reach their greatest potential,” per their website. This looks like providing services and programs for children and their families that promote the education of children and healthy living.  BHPC is part of the Smart Start program which was created in 1993 to help address educational needs of children who came to school unprepared for the academic environment. They primarily focus on children from birth to five years of age. 

Executive Director of BHPC, Jessica Burnham, said it’s important to invest in young children because it ultimately helps prepare them to be productive members of their communities. 

“Think about everything a child is doing from birth to five [years of age]. They’re learning to walk, they’re learning to talk, they’re learning the sight words – all of that brain development they’re getting in that age group of children we’re servicing – prepares them not only for when they go  further their education with K-12 and college, but they’re utilizing all of those development skill sets that they have learned birth through five [years of age] in every stage of their life,” Burnham said.  

She continued to say, “We are essentially preparing that workforce for our community. We are getting them ready at this young stage to have all of those skills.” 

Though the week was filled with fun and happiness, part of it brought attention to the a tragic topic – the prevention of child abuse and neglect. 

There were 2.3 million children under the age of 18 living in North Carolina as of 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of that total amount, there were 21,242 children who were considered maltreatment victims. 

Two years prior, that number was down to 5,601, but the following year skyrocketed to 22,339. The average percentage of children between the ages of 0-12 years of age who were victims of maltreatment in 2021 was 6.1%. 

Data from ECU Health shows that in 2020, the rate of substantiated child abuse in Beaufort County was 21.5% compared to the state of North Carolina which was 7.9%. A substantiated abuse rate shares how many reports of child abuse and/or neglect had evidence. Child abuse, defined by ECU Health includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. 

“All types of child abuse and neglect can have long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school,” according to ECU Health.

The health care system listed red flags to look for in identifying if a child is being abused and/or neglected: socially withdrawn, dirty clothes, clothes inappropriate for weather, poor hygiene, failure to thrive or malnourished, untreated medical problems or illnesses, severe dental cavities, developmental delays, self-abusive behaviors, anxiety or aggression. 

Child abuse and neglect can be reported to the Department of Social Services and can be done anonymously. To report, use one of the following resources:, You can also call Childhelp (800-422-4453) for assistance.