April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
About 30 people gathered at Suhr Park Monday morning, clad in blue and carrying blue pinwheels — the color and symbol of child abuse awareness. They marched their way down to the St. Paul Convocation Center, handing out pinwheels to anyone they passed — policeman, passersby or truckers parked on the side of the street, awaiting the end of the procession.
Each year children’s services nominates a partner as a “life saver” of children. protecting them from abuse and neglect. This year, the area schools were chosen.
“Truly the way they work with children and the direct contact they have with the children that we both jointly serve is a way to really build safety around that child, hopefully helping the child before abuse or neglect does happen,” children’s services administrator René King said.
In 2016 alone, Huron County responded to 964 calls involving children and families, 448 of which resulted in the need for further assistance. Thirty-five children spent time in foster care and six were adopted into new families.
“Things happen all throughout the year and I don’t think always the community is aware. They don’t know how much happens in Huron County,” King said. “We want them to see that we need to have conversations with our community to prevent abuse and neglect.
“We’re struggling with the hard economic times and the opioid epidemic in the community. Large and small are being impacted by it,” she added.
King encouraged anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to contact authorities.
“If a child appears to be in need of any kind, even if they’re hungry, if they don’t have proper attire for the weather, if they report anything, if you see a change in their personality, call,” she said. “There are all kinds of signs you look for. Just keep an open mind, open heart.”
Those in the community who would like to help raise recognition can participate in Wear Blue to Work Week next week. Community partners are invited to a prevention breakfast on April 26.
Jill Miller, a Bellevue City Schools social worker and march attender, said a service dog named Ace is one way her district helps its students.
“It’s for comfort and for overall general environment — it’s welcoming helps them stay calm and feel invited,” Miller said of Ace, who has been part of the school district for the past four years. “A dog is nonjudgmental, so when he comes into school, all the kids gather around him. They just all feel good when he is around.”
“Fortunately, we don’t have to call on children’s services often, but when we do, they’re there for us,” Monroeville Local Schools Superintendent Ralph Moore said.
“With all the issues we’re dealing with, with social media and the influences that are out there on our kids and what the parents have to deal with, unfortunately it’s an ongoing issue and now with notoriety that we see with the drug issues going on and the other things that are out there — those are family issues without a doubt. The need has never been greater.”