PRINCETON — Twirling blue and silver pinwheels are things that delight children, but they’re also a way of reminding adults that not all childhoods are loving and carefree.
Mercer County Child Protect’s personnel left their offices this week to plant blue and silver pinwheels at the nearby Mercer County Courthouse. The twirling toys are symbols reminding passersby that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Child Abuse Prevention flag was flying above the courthouse already.
“It’s the national symbol of child abuse prevention,” said Shiloh Woodard, Child Protect’s executive director.
“These will be all across West Virginia and the nation during Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
The blue “Pinwheel for Prevention” was adopted by Prevent Child Abuse America as the national symbol of child abuse prevention. Since 2008, more than four million pinwheels have been distributed nationwide, including all over the two Virginias.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been making the actual numbers of ongoing child abuse cases difficult to correlate, Woodard said. This goes back to the fact that preventative measures keeping children out of school are also keeping them away from teachers and others who normally notice signs of abuse and report them.
“We do know that the number of case referrals into the West Virginia Child Abuse Hotline have decreased. With kids doing remote learning, there’s less youth activities and extracurricular events. They’re not not having the same exposure and interactions with kids as they normally do,” Woodard said. “I think child welfare officials across the country are very concerned with kids who have fallen off the radar.”
The pandemic has put many families under a lot of stress, and this plays into whether a child is safe at home, she said.
“We definitely don’t think there is less abuse happening. There is less opportunity for children to disclose what might be happening to them at home, so there are fewer reports being made to the hotline,” Woodard said as her coworkers put pinwheels around the courthouse’s main entrance.
Children having fewer chances to report abuse or be among adults who notice signs of it makes reminding the public about the problem all the more important. The pinwheels symbolizing child abuse prevention and the ceremonies reminding people about the young lives that are touched by and lost to it help keep the issue in the forefront, according to Beth Sizemore, the Child Advocacy Center program director.
“It’s not a thing most people talk about,” Sizemore said.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is a way to make people more aware “that not all kids have the happy, perfect childhood,” she added.
Lindsay Pack, the Child Advocacy Center’s program coordinator, said that many child abuse cases involve people who were trusted to be around children.
“I think that people are used to the idea of stranger danger,” Pack stated. “People taught their kids not to speak to strangers, but what we know now is that the abuse is more likely to come from a person of trust: a family member, a family friend or somebody that the family trusts.”
Child Abuse Prevention Month events have been scheduled throughout April.
April 12 through 16 will be the second annual Child Protect Spirit Week, Woodard said.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of how to create safe and happy childhoods. Folks can visit our Facebook page to learn how to participate,” she stated.
Another event on Saturday, April 17, a free Childhood Abuse Prevention Walk, will start at 10 a.m. and go from the courthouse to the U.S. Post Office on Mercer Street and back again.
This event will be followed on April 23 with the Children’s Memorial Flag Day event in front of the courthouse, Woodard said. Starting at noon, the ceremony will have special music, recognition of special advocates for children and a guest speaker. The ceremony is a memorial to children who were lost during the past year to preventable causes.
Child Protect Child Advocacy Center and Starting Points are also having a fundraiser to benefit victims services. T-Shirts are being sold with sizes Small to Extra Large for $15 and $16 for sizes 2XL and up.
To order, contact Beth Sizemore at 304-425-2710. Payments can be made by cash, check or the donate button on the website www.mercerchildprotect. com.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com