OUR OPINION: April, the month of pinwheels and protection

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 21, 2023

By now you’ve seen the blue pinwheels gently spinning across our community.

They are a familiar sight, appearing each April as part of the Pinwheels for Prevention awareness campaign, a national effort to draw attention to the need for policies and programs to help ensure children are raised in safe, nurturing environments and protected from abuse and neglect.

The whimsical pinwheels are a reminder that we all play a role in the lives of children — our children, our community’s children and our nation’s children.

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And they are a timely reminder in April, designated as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, that despite the best efforts of volunteers, services and agencies, our children are still at risk.

More than 3.6 million cases of child abuse are reported each year in the United States, and experts estimate that for every reported case of abuse, two more incidents go unreported.

Here in America, where we believe access to support and help are easily found, child abuse claims the lives of nearly five children each day. Its victims cross all socioeconomic levels, ethnic and cultural lines, religions and education levels.

And the abuse comes in so many ways. Neglect, the most widespread form of abuse, makes up 59 percent of all cases. Sexual abuse affects one in three girls and one in five boys before they reach age 18. Emotional, mental and physical abuse leave lifelong scars, giving way to adults who are 11 times more likely to engage in criminal behavior as an adult than those who did not suffer abuse as a child. 

Child abuse and neglect is a quiet epidemic, ravaging the most innocent among us on a daily basis. Agencies such as Child Protective Services are tasked with investigating reports of suspected abuse or neglect, but the need reaches far beyond simply identifying harmful situations and intervening.

That’s why the work of agencies like the Warren County Children’s Shelter and others here in Warren County is so important. These agencies aid children in abusive or neglectful circumstances. They provide a safe space for those who have been victimized. And they help children and families heal.

It’s thankless work, steeped in the emotional challenges of trauma; abuse; neglect and harm. And the men and women who choose to work in this field are the quiet heroes among us.

And when you see those blue pinwheels spinning this month, we hope you will take a moment and say a prayer: for the children who suffer abuse and neglect each day and for the men and women working tirelessly to protect them.