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ODU's Polonko Honored by State for Child Advocacy Efforts

Gov. Bob McDonnell, along with the Governor's Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect (GAB), has announced the winners of this year's awards for individuals committed to improving the lives of children. Among the five 2012 GAB Award winners is Karen Polonko, University Professor of sociology at Old Dominion.

The GAB Awards recognize Virginians who have exhibited a strong commitment to advocacy, protection, prevention, treatment and assistance.

"Child abuse prevention is one of our high priorities at the Virginia Department of Social Services. VDSS, parents, family members and the community at large have a responsibility to make this happen," said VDSS Commissioner Martin D. Brown. "Without individuals like these, we would not be able to reach as many children as we do. I thank them for their daily commitment to advocating for and protecting the commonwealth's youngest and most vulnerable citizens."

Polonko was honored for the passion and dedication she has brought to her work for 28 years developing community awareness programs and curricula on child abuse and children's rights; authoring numerous publications; and inspiring and educating her students about the prevalence and dynamics of child abuse and neglect.

Polonko was also recognized for co-producing a Child Abuse Prevention series that brings to campus nationally recognized speakers who have increased knowledge and understanding about child abuse for ODU students, faculty and the greater community. She was further noted as one who advocates for an end to all forms of child maltreatment and annually conducts a candlelight vigil in memory of all children in Virginia who have suffered and died as a result of abuse.

At ODU, Polonko currently teaches the large sections of Introduction to Sociology as well as Sociology of Child Welfare and Violence Against Children Globally. She is co-author of the book "The Sexual Bond" and has published in the areas of families, fertility, child maltreatment and children's rights. The focus of her current research is on children internationally, including assessment of the implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the distribution and causes of different types of child maltreatment on a global scale.

She was the first ODU recipient of the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award, and the National Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored her with the CASE Virginia Professor of the Year award. She received a special commendation from the Virginia General Assembly for contributions in teaching, research and service as a professor at ODU.

Other winners of the GAB Awards were: Dr. Michelle Clayton, of Norfolk, who joined the Child Abuse Program at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in 2004; Susan Curtis, of Leesburg, executive director of Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice Inc. - Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter; Ian Danielsen, of Richmond, coordinator of the Child Advocacy Center; and Rev. Thurman Echols Jr., of Axton, who served on the Governor's Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect (GAB) from 2004-11 and as chair from 2008-11.

In addition to the GAB Awards, each year the Dr. Shaw Award is given to distinguished child protective services professionals for outstanding contributions to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. This award was established in 1992 in honor of Anthony Shaw, M.D., who was a leader in the development and passage of the 1975 Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Act, which established Virginia's system of child protective services.

Winners of the Shaw Award were Betty Jo Zarris, of Richmond, who has worked at all levels in the social services system as a direct service worker, educator, trainer, supervisor and administrator during her 40-year career, and Candice Adams Elliott, of Mecklenburg County, coordinator of the Child Protective Services Unit at Mecklenburg Department of Social Services since 1986.

Awards were presented at the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month Conference in Richmond on April 2.

The conference is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Social Services and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and co-sponsored by the Governor's Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Family and Children's Trust Fund, and the Virginia Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention. April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Virginia and around the country.

This article was posted on: April 9, 2012

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