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Today's Family Magazine

Lake County Job & Family Services sponsors pinwheels event for child abuse prevention

By Deanna Adams

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which was first observed in 1983 by a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan.  It is a time in which the Children’s Bureau strives to raise public awareness of child abuse and neglect, and enforces efforts and resources aimed to protect children, strengthen families, and promote community involvement.

Of course, we all need to be aware every day of this issue that affects not just families, but an entire community.  So what do we need to know? “The first thing a community can do is be educated on child abuse and neglect and have an understanding of what an abusive, or neglectful, situation might look like,” says Alison Tomaselli, assistant administrator for Lake County Children and Adult Services.  “Red flags or warning signs can be obvious at times: unexplained injuries, a child going without basic needs, or even a disclosure of abusive or neglectful acts. Yet, there are situations in which those red flags are not so obvious.”

Tomaselli explains that abuse and neglect doesn’t always result in an injury, and so it’s also important to be aware of changes in a child’s behavior.  This could include a child suddenly losing interest in activities, or a socially active child suddenly becoming withdrawn or isolated.  “It’s imperative to be cognizant of situations that don’t feel right, or explanations you’re not completely satisfied with.”

Child Abuse Prevention Month provides everyone an opportunity to learn about the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it.  Child abuse can take on many forms, and often occurs at the same time.  They are:
  • Physical abuse.  When a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.
  • Sexual abuse.  Any kind of sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography.
  • Emotional abuse.  Belittling or berating a child that damages a child's self-esteem or emotional well-being. This includes verbal and emotional assault, as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
  • Medical abuse.  This can involve someone giving false information about a child’s illness that normally requires medical attention. That is, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical care.
  • Neglect.  The failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care to a child.
“Community members, including parents, teachers, neighbors and service providers,  can make a report of suspected abuse or neglect to Lake County Children Services,” advises Tomaselli.  “Our department has a 24-hour hotline which allows the opportunity to report concerns any time they arise.”  She adds that oftentimes people may not think their concerns are enough to report, or that their information may not warrant agency involvement.  She encourages them to make a report and let the professionals determine a decision.  

If you come across a questionable situation, here is what you can do before calling authorities:
  • Community members, such as neighbors and friends, and anyone working with children, can and should take the time to listen to what children say.  Never minimize something that might be a possible warning sign.
  • Don’t simply turn the other cheek when a child is exhibiting disruptive behaviors.
  • It’s important to know that in many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts, such as a parent, relative, or caregiver.  If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the proper authorities.
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Lake County Job & Family Services is sponsoring an annual Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, designed to enhance community awareness about child abuse and neglect, and encourage support for prevention.  They will be displaying 1,100 blue pinwheels in front of their building, signifying the estimated number of children the agency serves throughout the year, as well as the number of caregivers (foster, adoptive, relative, kin) who were able to provide a safe home for some of these children.

“Pinwheels have become a national symbol for the prevention of child abuse,” Tomaselli says. “They are typically colorful, bright and reminiscent of childhood, and have become an uplifting reminder of childhood and the bright future that all children deserve.”

The color blue, and blue ribbons, is recognized and associated with child abuse awareness, along with National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It originated in 1989, when a grandmother tied a blue ribbon to the antennae of her car as a signal to fight for the protection of children after her grandchildren had been abused and neglected.

Each year, Ohioans are encouraged to wear blue to school, to work, to an event in the community as a way to bring about awareness of child abuse prevention.  And although much of that can no longer take place in view of the coronavirus pandemic, Tomaselli says they still plan to plant the pinwheels, even without the ceremony.

Also, each year, they honor a child advocate of the year, which recognizes someone in the community who has made a difference in the life of a child.  “Nominations come directly from our social services staff,” Tomaselli says, “as they are the ones working hand in hand with our partners in the community.”

This year, the nomination goes to Detective Dan Radigan with the Mentor Police Department. “Detective Radigan is insightful, dedicated, and truly committed to his role in ensuring that children and families are safe.  Our social services staff look forward to collaborating with him on those tough cases,” Tomaselli noted.

For more information on National Child Abuse Prevention Month visit www.childwelfare.gov.  Promote the prevention of child abuse by using #NationalChildAbusePreventionMonth on social media.

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