State Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) was among those honored for fighting a growing scourge--child abuse--at a dinner presented by the Child Abuse Council of Orange County.
The council's annual Community Advocacy Dinner attracted 280 people to Le Meridien hotel in Newport Beach Thursday. About $7,000 was raised from the $50-per-person benefit, with proceeds going to the council's Life Enrichment Assistance Program (LEAP). The program helps young people on probation or in foster care make the transition to independent living.
Children at Risk
Bergeson, Gov. Pete Wilson's nominee for state schools chief, took time out from the confirmation proceedings to accept the council's Child Advocate of the Year Award.
"Child abuse has to be our top priority," Bergeson said. "There are very serious problems facing society. There's a growing lack of personal responsibility and community values. It has cost children their safety, security and happy childhoods."
In honoring Bergeson, the council cited her legislative efforts on behalf of children.
"Marian has the ability to make a statement, to have a positive impact on children's lives," said Carole Neustadt, event chairwoman.
Other citations were the Volunteer Services Agency Award, presented to the Exchange Club Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, the Council Member of the Year Award presented to Glennda Mourer, and the "Keeping the Promise" Education Award to the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach.
Families in Trouble
Despite efforts to combat the problem, child abuse cases are on the rise. There were 4,000 reported incidents in Orange County in March--the highest monthly tally ever, according to Gene Howard, director of children's services for the Social Services Agency of Orange County. About 36,000 cases of child abuse were reported in 1992, up from 34,000 the previous year. Howard blamed the increase on economic pressures on families.
"The recession is obviously having an effect," he said.
Barbara Oliver, council director, said prevention is an important goal.
"If we're ever going to end it," Oliver said of child abuse, "we have to go upstream to see where the problem is. A new program expected to start in the summer called Healthy Families-Orange County will team parents at risk of abusing their children with a counselor who can teach them parenting skills.
"Most parents who abuse their children aren't monsters," Oliver said. "They're in life situations that are beyond their ability to cope."
Although the event served a serious cause, the mood wasn't always somber.
"Our hope is to bring out the children in people, so they'll enjoy the evening and be able to reach out to other children," Neustadt said.
Guests sat at tables adorned with balloons and teddy bears and enjoyed breast of chicken with \o7 sauce forestiere \f7 and chocolate mousse cake.
They were entertained by the Costa Mesa-based All-American Boys Chorus, which sang light fare such as "When You Wish Upon a Star."
"To those who can't believe the boys are not lip-syncing to a tape--there are no Milli Vanillis in the house tonight," said director David Albulario.
Among the guests were the five Orange County Supervisors, honorary co-chairs; and Francisco Briseno, presiding judge of the juvenile court; Mike Carona; John Dean; Marlene Draper; Jim Fleming; Barbara Fouracre; Mark and Ellen Gaughan; Wellington Hall; Peter Hartman; Mary Hendrickson; George and Patty Hoag; Lottie Hobbs; Larry and Carol Leaman; Glenn Parrish; Michelle Reinglass; Ann Tanouye; James Tarwater; Wayne Tesch; Tom and Donna Uram; Thomas Wilke; Eleanor Wilson, and Lois Wood.