We are the Pinwheels of Power

Image courtesy of Ounce of Prevention Fund website

April was an eventful month. With spring in full swing, there were many fun and important things to look forward to. One of those important things being child abuse prevention month. However, child abuse prevention shouldn’t just apply to April, it should apply to every month of the year. Many people don’t know what child abuse prevention represents, but it should be something that is labeled in red ink, or rather with a pinwheel even in the last weeks of the month.

When speaking with the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Florida, Chis Lolley, spoke about the pinwheel’s symbol in child abuse prevention.

“We need a symbol that denotes action and so the pinwheel is the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention month more so than a ribbon that commemorates those bad things,” says Lolley. “We use the pinwheel to talk about how it only takes a little bit of wind to get that pinwheel spinning.”

Lolley talked about what was done this past April as well as going in-depth about child abuse prevention. Lolley informed that social media tool kits were the best way to raise awareness in April. On top of using a social media platform, people can attend virtual kickoffs that discuss the topic of raising awareness. But to start raising awareness, people must first understand what to do to stop child abuse. 

Image courtesy of Ounce of Prevention Fund website

“It only takes a little bit of action from us as individuals as small groups, as places of faith, as schools and as other organizations that are in the community. If we take just a little bit of action just like the pinwheels, we can help prevent cases of abuse and neglect.”

Lolley states that it’s better to prevent abuse before it starts instead of waiting to report abuse that’s already happened.

“It’s not like we’re not going to stop responding to reports of abuse, we have to do that. But instead of talking about looking for bruises and welts, looking for changes in behavior, looking for children who are ill-dressed for the weather, keep in mind is what people can do to prevent it,” says Lolley.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Maltreatment report of 2019, an estimate of 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect at a national scale. The report also states that the rate of those fatalities was 2.50 per 100,000 children in the population of 2019. The study also states that out of children who died in that population of 2019, 75.9% of those children suffered neglect.

“Neglect outweighs the number of physical abuse reports for sexual abuse reports by 3 to 1,” says Lolley. 

“The best way to prevent abuse or neglect is stable, caring relationships. One caring, stable individual is what can really make a difference for kids so we encourage people to do things like mentoring or volunteering or Child Care Center, volunteering at your school,” says Lolley.

Image courtesy of Ounce of Prevention Fund website

“You can coach little league, you can coach youth sports. Even if you wait until after abuse or neglect has occurred, a lot of people could be foster parents and adopt or they could be a guardian ad litem even after abuse and neglect,” Lolley commits.

However, in the case that abuse has already happened, it is not too late to act. In the state of Florida, a person doesn’t need a specific reason to report child abuse. As Lolley informed, as mandated or mandatory reporters, a person can and should call for help when abuse is suspected. He informs that they shouldn’t hesitate to call 1-800-96-ABUSE when abuse is suspected.

Lolley says that “calling doesn’t mean you’re calling in a report and you never have to worry about it again because it may or may not fit the definition for abuse in the State of Florida or neglect in the State of Florida. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t see people in our communities all the time.” People should not be intimidated to step in and report abuse if they have to because children will feel more protected when they know they have a community.

Another easy step to raise awareness is simply becoming more informed. Lolley stated that Prevent Child Abuse Florida distributed over 200,00 pieces of literature informing parents on parenting and protecting their children. 

He also discussed how the rate of SID deaths, or sudden unexplained infant deaths, has gone down in the last 25 years because of their Back to Sleep campaign. This campaign encouraged parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs to prevent suffocation and the campaign reduced those deaths.

Magazines and informational pamphlets like that can make the biggest difference. It can inform parents about taking care of children while sleeping or playing by the pool’s edge.

“We know that abuse and neglect cover the entire front so it impacts every culture, every race, and every ethnicity. Our parenting magazine is our effort to provide information for common things like toilet training for example, or how to deal with a fussy eater, but it also goes all the way up and talks about things like teen dating violence and how to keep your kids safe online and stuff like that,” says Lolley.

Image courtesy of Ounce of Prevention Fund website

The main thing that everyone should remember is that awareness doesn’t end just because April is over. One month will end and another will come forward, but that means that child abuse prevention must still be a prominent topic. 

“There’s a lot that has to be done and it won’t happen overnight. There’s no magic wand that we can wave at the problem and turn into something that just disappears,” Lolley concludes “There are a lot of things you can do that’ll help in your community, whether you’re volunteering as we talked about, but trust has to be established.” We have to do our part and become pinwheels of people for the children in our community every month of the year. 

About the Author

- Lauren is a junior at Nova Southeastern University who is studying Communications, Creative Writing, and Strategic Communications. In her free time, she loves to go to the beach and writing what's on her mind.

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