Prevention and Pinwheels
April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month
If you’ve ever played with a pinwheel, you’ve enjoyed a toy that’s entertained generations of children around the world. Spinning with the wind or a puff of air you provide, they are effortless and joyful.
Pinwheels are the symbol for Child Abuse Prevention Month because they represent the carefree lives all children should lead, but do not. Many businesses are showing support by planting a garden of pinwheels throughout the community.
This year in Giles County, pinwheels will also honor the 20th anniversary of an agency that helps victims of abuse regain their childhoods. April 4 pinwheels were planted at the Courthouse to honor A Kid’s Place Child Advocacy Center and a special proclamation was read by County Executive Melissa Green.
PHOTO COURTESY OF A KID’S PLACE
After the pinwheel planting, a special ceremony was held at the Abernathy House at First United Methodist Church. Balloons were released for child abuse victims and for all victims of crime after 22nd Judicial District Attorney General Brent Cooper discussed the ways that crimes affect the lives of children.
The pinwheels that have been purchased will provide services that are free to victims and their families.
“We’re making a difference, one life at a time,” A Kids Place Executive Director Brandi Burdette said.
After 20 years of work in the judicial district that includes Lawrence, Giles, Wayne and Maury counties, A Kid’s Place has changed and saved thousands of lives.
Statistics for child sexual abuse are very frightening, affecting one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys. Ninety percent of victims are abused by someone they know, but a growing number are approached by sexual predators online.
Children who do not get appropriate care for the trauma of these Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) suffer long-term psychological, emotional, social and physical problems. Forty-five percent of teen moms are victims of sexual abuse. Victims have a three to four-fold increase in rates of substance use disorders, are more likely to commit suicide and crime.
Child Advocacy Centers can help victims heal and lead healthy, whole lives. Before communities had them, victims repeated their painful stories to professionals at every agency that served them, and their cases were bounced between law enforcement, protective services, prosecutors, courtroom advocates, medical and mental health services. It’s easy to see how the process created more trauma, and how victims could slip through the cracks.
A Kid’s Place was modeled on the nation’s first Child Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala., said to have “revolutionized the United States’ response to child sexual abuse.” It brought all the services victims receive to one location, where children are helped to feel comfortable and secure.
More than 1,000 agencies in the U.S. and 33 other countries are now based on that successful blueprint. U.S. agencies are accredited through the National Children’s Alliance; A Kid’s Place is also licensed through the state as a Child Abuse Prevention Agency.
A Kid’s Place staff includes seven full-time and two part-time employees. Forensic interviewers hear children’s stories, which they share only one time. Therapists and family advocates work with victims and non-offending family members to heal and create healthy homes. Others help families prepare for the courtroom experience. Forensic medical exams are conducted there by doctors who are trained to work with young victims of abuse.
April also marks a renewed commitment to prevention, Burdette said. A forensic psychologist on its staff meets with local faculties, churches and other groups to help them learn how to recognize and prevent child abuse. Most importantly, she is working with students through curriculum designed to help them protect themselves.
Funds raised during April will go primarily to prevention services.
“We’re choosing to be proactive rather than just reactive,” Burdette said. “We have very few dollars that can go toward prevention, so this will help us be a catalyst for prevention.”
If you suspect child abuse or neglect of any kind, call the Department of Children’s Services hotline at 1-877-237-0004. Trained staff members answer these calls 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
— A Kid’s Place Child Advocacy Center