If you are anywhere near Burnet Woods Park in Clifton next week, please stop to contemplate the message behind the beautiful pinwheels you see planted in the field facing Martin Luther King Drive.
More than 5,000 colorful pinwheels should be glistening in the sun – if our weather turns — but behind that beautiful display is a dark message: each pinwheel stands for a reported case of child abuse in Hamilton County. Last year, we had 5,058 such reports.
We use the innocent childhood toy to draw attention to a harsh reality: children in our community are abused on a daily basis. Last year, five children died from abuse. This is unacceptable. We hope, by drawing attention to abuse, more people will work to prevent it.
“Pinwheels for Prevention” is an annual statewide campaign. Hamilton County joins all 88 Ohio counties participating in Pinwheels for Prevention as a kick off to Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. This year’s local Pinwheels event is sponsored by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services, Hamilton County’s Family and Children First Council and the Council on Child Abuse of Southern Ohio, Inc.
The statistics on child abuse are disturbing. Nationally, 3.3 million reports of abuse and neglect, involving 6 million children, were made to child protection agencies across the United States in 2009. More than 1.5 million of those referrals were determined to be valid abuse and neglect reports. More than 1,700 children died from abuse or neglect.
The worst part of it all? Recent studies show only about 10 percent of child abuse is substantiated by social service agencies. Much of it goes unreported or unproven. Many children are suffering silently. We must provide voices to the voiceless.
Many citizens are unaware of how widespread child abuse is in their local communities. I am convinced they would not tolerate it if they knew it was happening. Believe me when I tell you it is happening in every neighborhood of this community. These pinwheels drive home the point.
What can you do? Be on the lookout. Report suspected abuse to our child abuse reporting hotline, 241-KIDS. Mentor a struggling parent. Take a neighborhood child under your wing. Advocate with a politician for laws and support for child abuse prevention.
Together, we can reduce the abuse in this community.
Next year, I hope we have far fewer pinwheels planted in that field.