If you’ve been by the Pickens County Courthouse in the last month, you may have noticed a patch of the lawn covered with tiny, brightly-colored pinwheels.
While nice to look at, these whimsical little additions have a haunting purpose. Earlier this month, Pickens Family Partners set out the toys as part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is now winding to a close.
The pinwheel has become a national symbol of child abuse. Here in Pickens, pinwheels act as a visual reminder of the 534 reports of child abuse or neglect made last year to the Pickens Department of Family and Children’s Services.
In Georgia it is estimated that over 40 children are victims of confirmed abuse and neglect each day, with the most recent statistics available showing 60 children losing their lives to abuse or neglect in one year.
According to the Georgia Department of Human Resources, more than 37,000 cases of child abuse occurred in Georgia in 2006. Half of those children were below the tender and impressionable age of seven.
Children in the foster care system suffer, too. In 2007 it was estimated that 85 percent of the 22,000 children in foster care in Georgia were victims of severe neglect.
What makes these statistics all the more heartbreaking is they don’t include cases that go unreported.
Now authorities are telling us abuse and neglect numbers are on the increase as families struggle financially during present hard times.
People have lost their jobs; homes are being foreclosed; some mothers and fathers have turned to drug abuse.
All such issues fuel the problem. Stress is taken out on kids when parents feel pushed past the breaking point.
The thought of children being horribly mistreated is nauseating. Best to remember that child abuse can be prevented.
The solution to the problem is multi-faceted, beginning almost always with brave adults willing to make the first move.
Here are the first lines of defense:
•If you are a spouse, and your partner is abusing your son or daughter, take action. Don’t rationalize it away, pretend it’s not happening or make excuses for inaction.
•If you are a parent and realize that you are the problem or are reaching a breaking point, find counseling. Seek it for your sake and your family’s.
•If you are a neighbor, and you suspect abuse or neglect, make the call.
•Make a donation or volunteer with an organization that works to educate families about child abuse.
Non-profits such as Pickens Family Partners are doing just that, working to educate parents and keep children safe. But it finally takes responsible parents and adults willing to make decisions in the best interest of children for child abuse to be curtailed.
Educate yourself about the signs of child abuse and be on the lookout. If we make ourselves aware of the warning signs and commit to intervening if necessary, we could make a world of difference in a child’s life.
You can call Pickens Family Partners at 770-737-6484 to learn more about the family programs they offer or to volunteer. They are located at 88 Clinic Road, Tate, Ga. 30177. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.