By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer
CADIZ – Pinwheels are turning on the Harrison County Courthouse lawn this month as a reminder of child abuse prevention.
A different message is being sent with this year’s campaign for Child Abuse Prevention Month, falling under the theme “It’s Your Turn to Raise the Leaders of Tomorrow.” Children Services workers and volunteers placed nearly 200 of the rotating toys outside the courthouse Wednesday as county commissioners recognized the month-long event via resolution.
Justin Abel, social services supervisor for the Children Services agency through the county Department of Job and Family Services, said the 2010 campaign recognized everyone’s role in child abuse prevention.
“This is the third or fourth year of doing Pinwheels for Prevention. There have been some changes,” he said, adding that past pinwheels represented the number of children the agency assisted. “Now the program’s changed and each one doesn’t represent the number of children but is a reminder that we have a role with children and families.”
He added that pinwheels were placed throughout the county last year, but with less staff amid recent layoffs and resources the agency opted to keep them in a central location. Abel said the month recognizes prevention but also the staff members who handle cases and programs.
“We don’t get to do that. They continue to pull together and do what we asked them to do,” he continued. “Children Services doesn’t always have a great public perception because it is all confidential. This is a good opportunity to spread our message.”
Agency representatives distributed T-shirts, magnets, cups and other items bearing the Children Services phone number and Child Abuse Prevention Month logo. Abel said funding was received to promote the cause and local money was not used.
Meanwhile, last fall’s passage of a 0.75-mill, five-year replacement levy in November will help generate about $143,000 annually for its duration to cushion the coffers, and fortunately the number of cases has been low.
Currently, the agency has 10 children in therapeutic care but four of them do not meet federal IV-E requirements based on low-income households that would otherwise reimburse Children Services for the treatment. Those four also comprise 80 percent of the costs. Another sticking point has been the drop in foster homes, which fell to only six inside the county border.
“We work hard to reunify homes and handle adoptions,” Abel concluded. “There are currently 10 children in custody, and after federal IV-E reimbursements about $210,000 per year is spent per child. That is down from last year and we hope it continues to go that way.”
Commissioners later approved a resolution recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Month, calling it “a visual way to demonstrate the real fact that abuse is prevalent in every community and that we each need to do our part to assist in breaking the vicious cycle.” The measure continued that preventing child abuse was critically important for the sake of the children and the health of the community.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is designated by the national Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, an undertaking through Prevent Child Abuse America.