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Interview with MaryAnn Adkins, December 3, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with MaryAnn Adkins, December 3, 2008
December 3, 2008
Interview with MaryAnn Adkins in which she discusses her work with women's and children's issues, particularly her involvement with the District Attorney's Office and District Courts and her volunteer work with the Domestic Violence Shelter.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Adkins, MaryAnn Interviewer:  Jones, Carroll / Sweeney, Kate Date of Interview:  12/3/2008 Series:  SENC Notables Length:  58 minutes


Jones: Today is Tuesday, December the 3rd, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones with Kate Sweeney for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. We are in the Helen Hagan Room of Special Collections. Our guest this morning is MaryAnn Adkins. And MaryAnn, you can correct me when we get through this. You are a long time volunteer for women and children's issues and work with the District Court System?

Adkins: Yes, along with the District Attorney's Office.

Jones: On behalf of the same thing. MaryAnn has also been on the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services Board and so many other things we're going to let her talk about. Her and her husband Don are known to be always available to anyone needing a helping hand. I was told this. So it is with respect that I welcome MaryAnn to our program. Good morning, MaryAnn.

Adkins: Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about some programs and things that sometimes I have assumed that people would know about and then find out that they've never heard of it. And when we first moved to Wilmington, my husband of 40 years, the love of my life; we came here because of our love of the ocean. And all our four kids were in college or out of college at that point. So, I got involved with Social Services for a short time and saw so many sad situations with children being abused like you see on TV and thinking this couldn't be happening in the generation that we live in today.

Jones: Let me ask you, so when did you come here?

Adkins: We came here about 18 years ago.

Jones: Okay, so that would that be 1990?

Adkins: Yeah, approximately. I'm not very good with years and dates.

Jones: That's okay, about, estimate. Did you do this as a volunteer?

Adkins: No, I did this as a-- I'm a certified social worker.

Jones: That's what I wanted to get at. You are certified. Okay.

Adkins: Because I did not complete my Masters, I'm not a licensed social worker. But I'm certified in the field of social work, you have to take a State exam and I did that when I moved here. Consequently, I went to the Department of Social Services and worked there for a couple years as what they called a Child Protective Service Worker.

Jones: Explain what that is.

Adkins: Child Protective Service Worker is the person that goes within a 24 hour period; it's mandated if abuse has been reported, that you have to be there the first 24 hours. It's not something you can put on your calendar to do in three days. You go to the home or go to the school or go to wherever you are going to find this child. And since the time I've done it, the system has changed. They now have what they call a MRS System, which is a Multiple Response Team. And what that is, it used to be that you didn't necessarily-- the parents would feel threatened or the caretakers or whoever, the minute they knew that a social worker was coming, or you know they didn't know but the minute you were at their door, they didn't want to let you in because all they could think of was that you were going to remove their child. And now the system is not nearly as punitive in their approach. They are more about looking with the family as to what has happened here, how severe it is. And based on the level of severity, if it is something manageable, then the social worker will work with the family to help them to get the necessary help. So, the next time they lose their temper or hit this child or throw them across the room; or again, if it is a domestic situation where the mother and father or mother and significant other or father and significant other because so many of these situations do not have a two-parent home. They will work with the family to give them every tool that's out there to help them with their problem. I mean if it is a mental health issue, obviously it is going to be a lot more intensive. If it was because the way they were brought up, and in a lot of situations it was the 'switch' and that's all they know. They don't understand that isn't good enough for their child when this was the way they were raised. And of course, if there's any kind of mark left on a child anywhere, then that is considered abuse.

Jones: How are you people in Child Protection Services made aware that there is possible abuse of a child?

Adkins: Well, the reports can come from a neighbor, the general community, a relative.

Jones: A teacher?

Adkins: And a lot of times it's the community; the teachers, medical professionals. A pediatrician might be doing an exam and see some things that he's questioning. Or the emergency room, where a parent has brought that child in because they supposedly have fallen. When the situation is explained and where the injury is just doesn't match the story. So, they call DSS because there's just something, something not right and something that is probably being hidden. Anyway, then they go through the court system. Sometimes the children are immediately taken and they are tried to be placed with family that are capable.

Jones: Do you have to be absolutely sure before you remove a child from their home?

Adkins: Oh yeah, I mean it's not like you go in and say, "Because I've had this report." Because there are unfortunately, people in society because they are mad because maybe they are in the process of a divorce or grandparents are mad because they are not seeing-- that will make these reports and there is no truth to them.

Jones: That was what I was getting at.

Adkins: Yeah.

Jones: A custody thing.

Adkins: Yeah, it can be very much a custody thing.

Jones: When you talk to the child, if the child is at an age you can talk to and you talk to the child, can you get a reading that way? Does the child clam up? If the know nothing else, they don't know how to compare.

Adkins: The thing of it is that if you have that timeslot where you've got the parents there and you talk to the child after the parents have been able to give them, promise them rewards or give them things. You ideally want to talk to that child first and get their story and exactly what happened. A lot of times they're scared. They are scared something is going to happen to one of their parents, especially if it is-- sometimes a male is sexually or physically abusing the child and they have threatened this child with the idea that if they would ever tell anyone; that this is their secret. They constantly are giving them special little gifts and things. They're saying, "If you tell anyone, then something bad is going to happen to mommy." Or something bad is going to happen to your sister, your brother or whatever. But we've come a long way since when I did it 17, 18 years ago because now we have in place so many resources that the minute a call is made and they go out; and there's usually a sheriff or police department involved. They can be immediately scheduled to go to the Carousel Center, which is a center that will physically examine that child with special digital equipment. They have a trained medical doctor there, Dr. Sonya Brown. And then they have several trained nurse practitioners there in addition to case managers and social workers that will follow that child along. So, that is a resource that we never had until about six years ago. The wonderful thing that's happened and that's where maybe since that job, I went with the Health Department. And again, I saw high risk babies. And these babies were living in conditions sometimes that I would have to call and make a report to Social Services. But then there were many times, it was just a matter of making sure because this baby was born with some abnormalities that they were getting to those specific clinics that Chapel Hill will bring to our local hospital. So, they don't have to go to Chapel Hill. They will have monthly clinics.

Jones: So what type of clinics? Can you explain?

Adkins: Well, I'm not really that knowledgeable but I know they have an orthopedic clinic. They have a cardiac clinic. They have a diabetic clinic. And these are all for children. Then if their conditions need something more than a month-- but what happens a lot of times, they'll go to Chapel Hill and get follow-up with the monthly clinics, which has really been great. Basically, I would follow these children to age five all the way. And if they needed to be tested to go to preschool in a special program at age three, then again, you're advocating for these children. You're very much a part of lots of different agencies working together, not just the school system, not just Social Services, not just the Health Department. You've got that whole group. You've got the family and you've got the therapist, whether it's an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. You've got all these people working together to see what placement in that school system is going to work best for that child. And this is why there's so many children that are so early diagnosed with the autism and are getting so many more services than they did many years ago. So from that, I really became very much a, I guess you'd say I realized my love, my first love was advocacy for children. And I saw so many homes being--

Jones: In that capacity, what was your role? Was it after the child had been in an intake situation? Or would you go to-- ?

Adkins: Well, this was when I was at the Health Department. As soon as we got the referral of the Health Department, it's called Child Service Coordination. We would go out to the homes and meet with the family and see what the situation was. We weren't out there for anything other than to see what kind of services this child might need in the future; whether it was a specific doctor or as I said the clinic. Then making sure at the same time that they knew about the WIC Program and the different services at the Health Department. Medicaid, if they didn't have that and maybe didn't have the insurance to cover some of the things that this child was going to have. So it was all about being a liaison for all the different services that were out there and making sure that that caretaker mom would be taking that child through bus transportation or whatever they had to do; because most of the families that we visited would not have transportation. At that point, there weren't cell phones back 10-15 years ago. Sometimes back then, we were able to take them ourselves. But that's changed because of insurance and liability. But there's lot of programs if people would just check with Social Services and some of the other agencies to make sure that these kids are getting all the different resources that are out there. Then from there, I thought it became such a large caseload. My personal goals, I wanted to do a lot more of the in-home and a lot more of the visiting and a lot more of the hands-on. I just felt like it was starting-- I mean, it was still going on but the numbers were getting larger as far as the caseload.

Jones: I was going to ask you about that. Do you attribute that, MaryAnn, to the growth in population here? Do you attribute to less education perhaps, and finding more people who have subscribed to drugs? A non-existent father figure at home?

Adkins: I think what's happened is that people want to come to Wilmington. They don't have to have any money or anything or any job. They can get on a bus apparently at Myrtle-- at some of these outlying areas. They can come across the bridge from Brunswick County. They hear we have all these good resources. In the meantime, they're sleeping in the car. Like you say, the population has grown. The drug problem has become greater. Children are speaking up more because of the kinds of programs that they're hearing about once they get to the schools about telling somebody. We no longer call it a secret. We call it-- if someone is doing things to you, it's okay to tell somebody; an older person that you can trust. If that person is not in your family, we have a school counselor. We have a principal. You can tell. We got lots of agencies that go in the school and do these programs. Coastal Horizons, [inaudible] Program and a lot of them. And I was doing it for a while from the DA's office. But I went to Ben David, our District Attorney, near the end of my first year there. I've been there five years. I said, "Everybody knows about general things about the court system but they don't have any concept except those bad kids." And there are some bad kids that keep showing up. They don't know the consequences that they're going to have if they get in a car with somebody that had too much to drink and they get stopped. The whole car is going to go in whether they or one of the people that were drinking. They don't know if a 16 year old is having relations or sex with a ten year old; that this is against the law. They need to hear what is going to happen to them and what the law is. So, we started this program about four and a half years ago with Ben David and one or two of his assistant District Attorneys that specifically prosecute child abuse and sex abuse cases and then also the ones that are doing the domestic violence. And he lays it on the line. He goes to the middle schools and the high schools. That program has been very successful and that we are getting far more people reporting things. Ben will say it just like it is. He said, "Today, you're seeing me as someone that can help you and give you information. But if you choose to make those wrong choices and decisions after you've been told this, when you see me or one of my assistants in the court room, it's too late." It really is very powerful and very empowering.

Jones: Is this done with like PowerPoint or something?

Adkins: No. He does it.

Jones: He does it himself.

Adkins: He does it and it's excellent.

Jones: I can imagine he would. Yeah.

Adkins: He does it for PTA Councils. It's grown. He could be out every night of the week if he were able to do that but he has his own life with three little ones and what have you. But he goes and he sends his assistants. That's been very good that we've done. The other thing that we've done or I've sort of been a liaison with is there was a group of us that were meeting from different agencies. We started providing training from the experts for all the principals in the schools and all the social workers and counselors. We did this two years ago or three years ago. It was in august and it was mandated that they go. We had somebody; Assistant Director Juan Moreno go in and talk about reporting abuse in the school system. We had somebody go in about--

Jones: In the school system?

Adkins: Yeah.

Jones: Now this was child to child? Or would it be teacher/child?

Adkins: This was to the principals so that they knew that by law, they had, that it wasn't a matter of "oh I think". It was if you suspect, you report it. You don't wait to see.

Jones: I heard from one principal, you probably know her, Elizabeth Myers in Freeman. Some of the problems that they have had continuously. But they are denied an in-school police representative, or somebody from-- If they had a child and this happened; a third grader came to school and announced that he had live bullets in his pockets. He also had burn marks on his wrists. When the teacher, who happened to be in Kure, approached him and said, "Let me see this. These bullets." He pulled them out. "Why do you have them?" He showed her his wrists. They were Wolf's Heads. It was important to this little eight-year-old that if he could hurt a teacher then he would be accepted into this club.

Adkins: Oh, so maybe gang related.

Jones: Yes it was. When this was reported, they had to take this child and send him home rather than to keep him in school off the street. They sent him home to a household where the mother was whacked out on drugs. There was no available father. That's not helping anywhere but the principal's hands were tied at that time. They had nobody in school to watch the child.

Adkins: But see, what should have happened is the teacher-- I mean, and that's the difference because the reporting is becoming a lot more. It was the teacher's responsibility that immediately saw that. Now, different schools are not supposed to have different policies. They are supposed to let the principal know or go-- you know, that they are going to make this report. Sometimes the principal chooses to make it themselves with that teacher there.

Jones: I think that's what happened.

Adkins: And therefore, you know that that child is going to get some protection.

Jones: The thing that I'm getting to, and it's so amazing, is that the child really didn't know he was doing anything wrong.

Adkins: No, that's the environment. It's a way of life. You're right. We were just talking about that at this meeting today that the incident that happened at Snipes with the person that was found and dead. All these students when they got to school had to be re-bused; either re-bused home or taken over to DC Virgo. They were like angels they said. They didn't get hysterical. It was sort of like most of them had experienced these kinds of things in some of their neighborhoods and some of their own homes. And a lot of them had all kinds of relatives related that had been in situations; not dead but, or maybe had been shot at. So, they were survivors. Unlike us, that maybe have never experienced anything like that. It just wasn't that, it was more curious. It was awful to them and they wanted to know the information but it wasn't something that-- you didn't get the reaction you thought you would get.

Jones: Do you have, do you find, in the realm of kids, do most of the children that we're talking about, that you deal with come from the lower economic areas? Are they from one parent homes? What I'm getting at is that they seem to repeat. They grow up and have kids.

Adkins: Intergeneration.

Jones: With the growing population it is going to get worse and worse. What can be done? I will give you an example of what I'm talking about. You met my daughter-in-law, who you've met, Kimberly. She is Head of Neonatal at Wake Med. I don't know how she is able to do it because I couldn't. She said children are begetting children and some of these, because of poor nutrition or the mother's are on drugs. Some babies come out, I've seen pictures, that they are ill to begin with. They have two strikes against them. You try to educate that 12-year-old mother. You want to have her fixed for life but you can't. The children need all kinds of care, which is on the State or the County. And you know they are going to repeat or come back but there is nothing you can legally done about it. You can't even remove that infant.

Adkins: And you can't force these young girls to be on birth control because they have this desire to want to because they want to take care.

Jones: They want something to love. It's a baby doll.

Adkins: They want to. Yeah. Yeah.

Jones: And likely they came into the world the same way.

Adkins: It's like somebody will say this saying- I remember doing a visit and they said they were living with their grandmother. Their grandmother was all of 32-years old or younger than that. I'm thinking, this is the grandmother? Well, it was one of these mothers that was 15 when she had the baby or something. Then her mother was just as young. It is an intergenerational thing and probably it would be great if sometime in the future if you would have some of the experts from Social Services come in and talk about that. They see it on an ongoing basis with the kinds of cases that they get and they probably could address if there is anything different that they're doing that I'm not aware of; other than trying to through the Health Department and the different programs to educate these kids. But once they're pregnant. And what happens, if that child is removed, they go out and get pregnant again with somebody else.

Jones: Looking for love.

Adkins: Yeah.

Jones: What does it take to remove a child from an environment?

Adkins: Well, the key point is that if they're in any kind of danger, then they're removed. Period.

Jones: Are they put into a Foster Home?

Adkins: And if there's a stable relative that Social Services has. But they have to do a background check and all that. So, first of all, they are usually put in a Foster Home unless there is a relative that they know would be a stable condition. Sometimes they are placed with a relative but they are immediately moved to a Foster Home because it just doesn't work out. The other thing though is in the DA's office, by the time these kids that have been sexually and physically abused, by the time the perpetrator is arrested and the case gets to our office; they have had all the services, which is good. Because ten years ago, that wasn't the case. Now the officers from both sheriff and police department and the forensic unit at DSS and the Carousel Center; with all of these people in place, they have really gotten a good grip on what's going on and how wrong it was. I mean, we have teenagers that have gotten impregnated by their father. Eventually the father is put in jail and there's a trial because he'll even deny it that it's theirs. A lot of times, people are just so afraid to say anything. And when Connie Jordan, who is the lead prosecutor for these kinds of cases; when she interviews them, she is really amazed at how knowledgeable they are about it.

Jones: Really? But by the time she gets in front of them, they've been through.

Adkins: Yeah, I mean they've been through all this counseling. It's probably at least a year. By the time all the evidence and everything has come in from the lab and all the different people that are involved. And what happens so many times is that the defendants keeps wanting to change lawyers. Or the lawyer will keep saying the defendant needs these evaluations. So it keeps getting continued and continued. And people think it's our office and it really isn't. I mean I'm not saying to defend, but it's just the circumstances. And sometimes you're waiting for something from the lab that is a very key to the whole prosecution. Most of the cases are done by pleas and that does make it easier for these children. We've had some excellent trials and Connie has-- we've won all of them. All these people are behind bars for the rest of their life. Sometimes you've got an 11 or a 12-year old that they're just not able to, they wouldn't probably be very convincing to a jury because they're not able to articulate and talk and what have you. It might be their shyness. It might be just the way they are. In those situations it's really to their advantage. And a lot of times, the family does not want them. They have to go through the trial.

Jones: What happens to a child who gives birth to a child in the case of incest?

Adkins: Well, the two that I know of, one ended up going through social services and having the child adopted. Another went through their church. This family had always wanted and they were very good friends with the family. They knew all through the pregnancy that they were going to adopt this child.

Jones: Isn't that a real chance though when you have-- ?

Adkins: It was but they had the lawyer. The girl went on to college. She was a very bright girl. It turned out that she stills sees her child and what have you. But this family is raising, it's their daughter.

Jones: What happened with the relationship with the father in this case?

Adkins: He's in prison.

Jones: Well that's good. I'm glad to hear that.

Adkins: But it took a while. He was in jail and then he was out. Anyway. And actually, and Connie can tell you the details much better than I can. But she had gone for her school physical for her senior year I think; for her junior year. And the nurse came back, I guess they did a urinalysis. She told the mother and the daughter. She said, "You're pregnant." And she was four months. And that's when the mother for the first time heard that it was her husband that had been doing that to her. It's so extremely sad.

Jones: What are the happy stories? You must have some that work out.

Adkins: The happy stories are the ones where--

Jones: And also another thing too, is this across economic boundaries?

Adkins: You did ask me that. You get that regular population if you want to call it. The lower income, the intergenerational where they just keep doing it. But you've got a lot of educated people and a lot of people in this community that are doing bad things. And unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't get reported but we do have cases where it isn't. They are very educated and what have you. We have college students that sometimes will report and not want to keep the baby. We have that program that you'll probably get Wanda to come in and talk about. The Safe Surrender where you go to the hospital. You don't give a name. You don't give anything. You just give that baby over. It has to be the first 24 hours that you have the baby.

Jones: That means anybody that gives birth to a child can literally give that baby away.

Adkins: It's called Safe Surrender.

Jones: They have no background detail on anything.

Adkins: No. Once they give information, then it's no longer- then it has to become something else. But that would be- it's a Federal Program and that would be something that I know I could give you some names of people that would be very well versed. It's to protect these babies. Usually they are very educated people, I won't say who but we had four last year in Hanover County and they all end up being adopted and protected and what have you. But they're probably situations where people knew they weren't going to be able to raise this child or maybe they didn't want the child but they wanted the child to be taken care of as opposed to putting the child in the dumpster or something. But some of the happy stories are some of these children that have gone through the traumas and abuse that they had every early in life and have succeeded and finished high school. Have gotten their, I mean they haven't let it stop them from being good citizens and not following in the footsteps of maybe what they, you know, not getting hooked on drugs or not getting hooked on alcohol and what have you. They'll come back and tell us about being in college. The girl that I just mentioned, and that had been going on like seven years or something with the girl that got pregnant. She's probably due to graduate this year. They make a life and they don't, I mean it's something, it's like anything else. I'm sure it's a part of your life for the rest of your life but you don't let it stop you from being a good human being yourself and many times in making a difference in somebody else's life by the example and the things that you do. Another thing that you might be interested in that we're doing is I'm the moderator for what we call the Homicide Support Group. And that was started about 12 years ago. This is out of Ben David's office.

Jones: See I said in the very beginning you were involved in all these different, that's a special person can do that only. Now they call it what, the?

Adkins: The Homicide Support Group, Family Support Group. The meeting, since John Kiriker [ph?] was here; it's been about 12 years. What's happening now is that instead of waiting, I mean some people still need to wait a year or sometimes people never come. But people are coming to this by word of mouth and by contact from our office sometimes as early as three to six months after the crime's been committed; before they've even had a trial. And before everybody's been arrested, we've had so many gang related things. This group, there's about 15 of them that come every month. They're very bonded. They are like family to one another. And what they say in these-- Nobody can come in from the outside; newspaper, nothing. It's all confidential. But what they consistently tell each other is that I get so tired of people saying, "Gosh, it's been five years. Move on." And they said, "We've moved on but we still have our bad days. Maybe it isn't a holiday. Maybe it's some other day. Maybe it isn't even a birthday. Maybe it's just something-- some food that I see that I used to fix that this child loved." And to think that he's no longer here that he'll never have the life that he deserved to have because of some horrible crime. I mean, just an innocent victim of a crime. These people really give to each other. It's not a therapy group. It's a support group. If somebody-- there's been once or twice that somebody's come that obviously they've needed more than just the support group and we'll really encourage them to get some direct counseling. But I have felt very humbled and very privileged to have Ben let me do this. It's at the First Baptist Church, the second Thursday of every month. It's open just to victims of homicide. Of course, that includes your DUI people that have been struck and killed by a DUI.

Jones: Are some people in denial? Those who live with people who've committed a crime against another family member or a neighbor. Are they afraid? Do they know any better?

Adkins: They're angry.

Jones: They're angry.

Adkins: And the big thing that keeps coming up at these meetings is we've got to do something to stop this continuous violence. A lot of them went to Ben David's- I guess it was an eight week class that he had over at Williston. That was Tim, I can't think of his name now. Blood don't sign my name, he wrote that book and I can't think of his last name. But anyway, this community has got to come together and look at what's happening. Like Ben has said, 80% of the people in jail are African American. The African Americans and all the other cultures in this community have got to come together and realize it's not a black and white issue or Indian or whatever. It's an issue that belongs to this community. And if the gangs and the drugs continue to become the power in this community rather than the community be the power, then we're going to have some real issues. And that's what he's trying to fight right now. They have a Blue Ribbon Commission that's working very hard to look at that. So, these members are very much wanting to do things to memorialize their own victims. They're going to try to do a yearly memorial vigil for their own every year. But in the meantime, they want to do more in reaching out. They go out to the trials and the pleas and sit with the families. They are there for them there. But they want to do more in the community as far as they're just waiting to figure out or for somebody to tell them what they can do. Of course, they work so it's not like they can stop their jobs and do this. But they're very, very motivated because of what's happened to their loved one. Some of them, it was an only child; well, whether it was an only child or whatever--

Jones: It's just a loss.

Adkins: It's just the rest of their life.

Jones: You know this is a subject which everyone is touchy about and you have to dance around, but you just mentioned something that I think everybody also knows. That 80%, on this particular situation, in jail are black. Does it go back to a way of life among a certain uneducated, possibly unemployed, possibly drug oriented group that is survival of the fittest?

Adkins: This is all they know.

Jones: That's all they know. I have often thought and have talked to a couple educated black members of this community who I have a great deal of respect for. Why can't you get in there yourself and show them that skin color is not the issue. It's the way you live. Go through the churches as well. And I really have found there's not a lot of interest there. I've found the attitude is that they've tried. They don't want to listen and it's not my problem.

Adkins: Well, I think you've got--

Jones: And yet we as Caucasians are made to feel guilty. Sometimes I feel guilty.

Adkins: But we do have a lot of African Americans on this Blue Ribbon Campaign that are leaders in their churches that are trying to bring some of the churches together. We've got the YWCA with their women's. And the UNCW. There's representatives from all the major groups here in this town as far as organizations. They've just hired somebody and it's just in its neonatal stages now. I guess between the class-- Tim Tyson, that's his name. And I think you are going to see a lot more about it. The idea is top bring your Landfall over with your Creekwood and your Forrest Hills over with your Nesbit Court. Nobody's about, well, I live here and you live there. It's about everybody. We're one community. We've got to start acting like one community and protecting each other and acting on these things. But everybody's still afraid to come in on some of these gang things. They're afraid something is going to happen to them or their family if they tell something that they know. As I said, they've got to get more educated that it's not going to happen. They are going to be protected.

Jones: Maryann, do you find or have you seen any evidence of the Hispanic Community being involved in this? Or do they more or less take care of their own?

Adkins: Oh, there's Hispanic gangs. Theirs is definitely. And there's definitely a large population of very young Hispanic people having babies. It's a cultural thing there with them.

Jones: I think so. But they are very family oriented it seems. Extended family or whatever. I don't hear too much about violence in families in Hispanic communities. Or do they just keep it quiet?

Adkins: They keep it quiet because the more--

Jones: I know there's a higher incidence of alcoholism rather than other abuse.

Adkins: Right. What's happen is the more DSS has become involved with their lives between getting Medicaid when they have a baby over here. Once they have a child here, then they can get Medicaid and food stamps and all the things that go with that. And people visiting their home, it comes out the father is abusing the mother. There's been some successful situations but probably more just like with all the other people staying with them. Because they're afraid they wouldn't have anybody to take of them or take care of their child. But there is a lot of domestic...

Jones: Is education the key for everybody? In hygiene? In Family relations? In having a work ethic?

Adkins: Well, example and education. Yeah. We need to have more role models and mentoring. They say these mentoring programs are great but it's finding the volunteers that aren't already overloaded with their own things. But that seems to be the key and having more mentoring in the schools. More mentoring one-on-one because we can't fix everything. They have to do some things on their own. But one other thing I wanted to tell you about is there's a group called, it's mandated group, it's called the Child Community Protection Team. And it's mandated by the State that we meet at least quarterly. We have the directors that meet quarterly and then we have the line workers, the people that are going out on these cases that meet once a month. So, once a month, we've got about 20 different agencies that are represented that meet for about two hours and talk about a case that has had, it's an abuse case that has had identifiable gaps and what can be changed for these gaps. These reports go up to Raleigh and it might be something like the transportation. It might be-- right now a big gap is that there's so many children that are reporting sexual abuse. There's such a lack of trained forensic therapists that can do the evaluations that need to be done to go to the next step. So, that's a very, very big gap. There's no play therapy in this area. And Mental Health Services right now as you know are in a whirlwind, so to speak. But we meet every month. There's myself, Carousel Center and some people from DSS that have been getting together since June, representing the Child Community Protection Team to have a statue put over in Empee because Empee Park is a central park where a lot of families go. We've gotten the approval to put it there. The only thing is-- and they'll maintain any ground around it. But we have been struggling. We have the artist. He's going to do-- it's Dumay Gorham. He's going to do something--

Jones: He is going to do metalwork?

Adkins: Yeah. And he's going to do it with hands. If you go on the computer and you talk about abuse and whatever, hands are a symbol of protection. Like this. He--

Jones: Domestic violence has that. Hands are not for hitting.

Adkins: Yeah. So, he has done a miniature thing that the City said they would accept but we were looking at six or eight feet. They said oh, no. They wanted it to be on a pedestal and a very small one. So the cost has gone down. They said that if every group came in and wanted to do these big things so I guess--

Jones: But this is so all encompassing.

Adkins: Yeah, but anyway, we're right now looking for and we haven't been very successful because of the times and the economy. But we're looking for people to pledge. He can't even start on it because we haven't been able to-- we thought we'd be able to get one of the corporate organizations here in town. Everybody we've talked to, they want something tangible. They want to give it to a specific education program where the kids are going to learn from it. They want to give it to the shelter where people are-- and I understand that. But even looking at the arts community, it's just the timing isn't good. But we don't want to let it go so we're going to keep continuing. Maybe the next time you're- maybe not the next time but maybe by next summer when you're at Empee Park. You'll certainly hear about it. What the purpose is going to be is that it will have something there; whether it's children blossoming in a caring community or protect your child. But there will be something on the stand with a phone number so if somebody sees somebody hitting and being inappropriate discipline, they can call. If something is happening to them, they can think. It's a reminder but it's also a positive thing for all the children and happy families that are protecting and taking care of their children. Hopefully, agencies would come and use this area to have celebrations and have vigils and what have you. So that's my project right now through the DA's office.

Jones: That's a worthwhile project so I wish you luck on that. Yeah you're right. It's amazing, particularly this time a year when you start getting pleas from--

Adkins: And the economy is so bad right now.

Jones: Everybody and they're all worthwhile. You kind of go crazy trying to decide which is which. I don't know, you must be a very thick skinned lady but you don't come across as one. Do you discuss these with your husband?

Adkins: We used to but not anymore. And to be very honest about it, now that I don't go into the homes and I'm not nearly as involved one on one, it sort of all happened. Reading the cases are horrible and what have you. But I feel like I've become more of that middleman for different agencies. They know that be it Child Advocacy or Smart Start or Domestic Violence, that if there's a program out there that they're not aware of, usually I'm aware of it. There's other people besides me but I'm just saying they know that I can usually find some information for them. So, I've become more of I guess that educational piece.

Jones: Now you deal mostly with children's issues?

Adkins: Mm-hmm. Except for the Homicide Support Group.

Jones: Except with the homicides. With the homicides, do people ever go to an agency, a source, the police, whatever and express the fear of a possible homicide?

Adkins: Oh yeah.

Jones: Based on their reality or imagined. They have to follow, they have to check all that out.

Adkins: They definitely do. It's the people that won't go and report it that we end up reading about in the paper. Our police and sheriff's department are very much on top of these things. They're not mind readers. They need people to tell them. And people are very protective of one another.

Jones: You have mentioned so many different agencies while we were here. And it's a mindblower, but they all seem to work together in one way.

Adkins: It's not...when I first came here--

Jones: Are they specialists?

Adkins: Yeah, they are all specialists but there were some that always overlap. I personally felt sometimes that there was a turf issue but if there ever was, it's not anymore. It is very much about being focused on what it's about. The family, the child. Making sure that they're safe. Nobody hesitates to pick up the phone and say that this is something we need your help with. There's a lot more of the so-called, they're called Family Staffings, Family Meetings where everybody is brought to the table rather than just--

Jones: Intervention type thing?

Adkins: Yeah. And they're very much working into the prevention also, so we're not at that.

Jones: It was brought to my attention earlier this year by someone I was talking to that the growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in various churches, other places to, has been staggering in the last couple of years. The meetings, places to have a meeting. It's available almost anywhere around the clock. Of course along with that would be for people who are alcoholics, but also for families and so forth. And yet it continues to grow. They felt that alcohol along with drugs are great factors in a lot of what goes on. But I wonder, we have ABC stores and that's guzzling up a lot of money. Do they make it themselves? Do you find that to be true?

Adkins: Alcohol is the leading cause of most of our cases.

Jones: Is that right.

Adkins: Alcohol and drugs.

Jones: So part of the treatment would have to be to go and recognize this.

Adkins: Yeah. And one of the visions that I heard Ben say is to have our own center right here in Wilmington. And we have gotten the Strategic Behavioral Center across the bridge that is going to house youths that have these programs, that have these problems. And that's a big step. If we don't start addressing this in early life, it's just going to keep escalating.

Jones: Well I can't help but think back to not terribly long ago the incidences in high school and colleges of binge drinking among kids. They don't seem to realize that it's not the thing to do. It's a weekend thing. That can come to no good. You would think there would be on campus, counselors that can recognize this and step in.

Adkins: I think a lot is changing in our office and the fact that we do have a lawyer that's assigned just-- I mean he does other things but he specifically goes and addresses the DUIs and any alcohol related cases. Then he also of course, when we've had these deaths from the different, we've had several over the last year with the DUIs and what have you. People know now that if they've been drinking and driving, there isn't any easy street. And they're going to-- they know that it's not something that will be tolerated in our office.

Jones: That's good. I'm glad to hear it. You know, you're doing good work and I've got to say God bless you, I know He does. It is such a shame that there is a need for all of these things. I see myself, occasionally I'll go to Wal-Mart and see how people talk to their children. They don't know they are doing it because their kids are just ambling along.

Adkins: Or they're just backhand.

Jones: Or they'll say, "You behave yourself or I'm going to hit you."

Adkins: You know if they say that in public--

Jones: You want to say so badly that that's a child. Don't do that. Give them a chance. They don't know any better and the kids going to grow up and do the same thing. MaryAnn you are a special person and only special people can do these kind of things. God bless you. I hope in your other life you are enjoying yourself.

Adkins: I am. I am very blessed. My husband and I do a lot of weekend trips. He is very aware of the needs in the community. But as I said, we're very blessed.

Jones: How about your children, are they the same way?

Adkins: They haven't gone that route yet. They're too busy raising our grandchildren.

Jones: Their own kids. I know, that's a full-time job. Well, I appreciate you taking the time out and coming.

Adkins: Believe me there's lots of advocates out there so I'll have to give you some names. I'm just a very tiny one.

Jones: The thing that amazes me too, being on the board for domestic violence shelter and and services is the growing need for shelters for men.

Adkins: Yeah, that is increasing, isn't it.

Jones: But I must say that what I have seen so far they do a wonderful job. Some of the shelters are very happy, sunny places. Well cared for. And thank God there are places like that too. You're doing a good job. Keep me in mind, I will talk to you later about people who approach me, what can they do.

Adkins: Okay.

Jones: Thank you so much.

Adkins: Thank you.

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