‘There’s a lot thunder out there… even on a bright blue day’

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In the fight against child abuse, unity and learning how to love are the best defense.

Supreme Court Justice Randy Pierce shared that advice with parents and children Wednesday during the Vicksburg Child and Parent Center’s Day of Remembrance program at Hinds Community College.

Pierce, who is co-chairman of the state’s Commission on Children’s Justice, praised the agency for its service programs that he said help promote a culture of unity and understanding.

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“There’s a lot thunder out there, folks, even on a bright blue day, and it’s our job to provide the umbrellas,” Pierce said.

Agencies such as the CAP Center provide a friendly, caring place for children to turn, and help for adults to find that their lives have spiraled out of control, he said.

CAP directs court-appointed special advocates for child abuse victims and a number of mentor programs aimed at children and adults, said executive Director Erma Driver.

“It’s our responsibility — every institution — to reunite families,” Pierce said.

Abuse comes in all forms and isn’t always evident to an outside observer, Pierce said. During the spring semester, he teaches a class on child abuse law at the University of Southern Mississippi. In that class, he requires students to read “A Child Called ‘It,’” Dave Pelzer’s autobiographical years of abuse at the hands of his mother.

During one class, two of his students, who showed no evident signs of being abused, revealed that they had similar childhoods, Pierce said.

“That’s why we need to be ever-vigilant and keep our eyes open and our hearts open,” Pierce said. “It takes a lot of heart.”

Pierce challenged parents to make a positive impact on the lives of their children and urged them to “reclaim the purpose you have in life.”

Sherrica McGruder admitted it took an extra push for her to reclaim her purpose.

Last year, McGruder’s life seemed to be falling apart at the seams. The single mother of two fell into a deep depression.

“I lost my grip on life,” she said.

At the lowest point, McGruder lost her home after her 4-year-old daughter accidently set fire to her apartment while playing with matches. She was out of control and so were her children, she said. Then the social workers came. McGruder was convinced they were going to take her children away.

She knew it was time to change if she wanted to keep her family together.

“They are my everything and without them I am nothing,” she said of her children.

Through CAP’s parent aid program, McGruder was able to get counseling and turn her life around, she said. Now engaged, she said she has her depression under control and is enjoying life with her children.

“I have become the woman and the mother that I know I can be,” she said. “You taught me how to love again.”