You may have seen the blue signs popping up around town. Or the pinwheels “growing” in front of local businesses and nonprofits. Or perhaps you’ve seen photos of people wearing all blue on social media.
But more than anything, what we want you to see is beyond all that. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and with every blue pinwheel we put out, every sign we place in the ground and every blue T-shirt we wear, it’s just another chance to increase awareness of child abuse in our community and across the nation.
April is a time to reflect on what we can do to help children who are abused, neglected or facing adverse childhood experiences. There are a variety of ways to do this, but perhaps the primary focus should be on learning.
For example, did you know people who’ve had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may have long-lasting — and even lifetime — effects, including depression, asthma, heart disease and more?
According to fact sheets from TEAM for West Virginia Children, those who have positive mentors when they are young are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking and doing drugs, and are more likely to succeed in school and earn better grades.
In child abuse and neglect situations, studies show that there’s often a larger problem at play, such as a lack of resources for the family and/or support in their communities. Which brings us to the next part: How you can help.
Singing and playing with kids helps develop their brains, and children who have sit-down dinners with their family will be healthier and have higher self-esteem, according to the Carnegie Foundation and Nemours Health and Prevention Services.
Simple things you can do for children that will have a great effect down the road include praising them when they do something well, listening to their stories, laughing at their jokes, encouraging them to be creative, involving them in decisions, asking them about their interests and accomplishments, listening to their favorite song with them, and, overall, just paying more attention to what’s going on in their lives.
For those wanting to increase awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month, consider planting a pinwheel garden. This is a national campaign called Pinwheels for Prevention. The pinwheel is a symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention, and when you plant a garden of them, it draws attention to these issues.
Also consider writing a letter to the editor to submit to the newspaper, call or email elected officials, and keep up to date on the issues that are affecting your community, especially those involving children and families.
Locally, there’s a whole calendar of events happening this month to raise awareness about child abuse, but here are a few of the big ones in which we hope you’ll consider participating.
On April 28, CASA for Kids and the United Way have organized a walk from the WVU Mountainlair to the Monongalia County Courthouse Square. The walk will start at 10 a.m. Walkers are asked to wear blue, and many of them will be carrying signs and/or pinwheels.
The Creative Arts Center will host a read aloud by Diane Tarantini, author of “The Brave Knight,” from 2-4 p.m. April 23. Contact the CAC to register.
We encourage other agencies and/or businesses to wear blue today and every Friday of the month. Take photos and send them to us at email@example.com or tag us on Facebook @unitedwaympc. We will be happy to share your photos.
For those in need, the West Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-352-6513.
AMANDA POSEY is the director of marketing and communications for the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.