The numbers are staggering.
In the United States, 7.9 million children fall victim to child abuse a year and only 3.4 million receive prevention and post-response services.
In 2020, Jackson County had 835 reports that were assessed for abuse or neglect. Of those, 141 were substantiated — 17 sexual abuse, eight physical abuse and 116 neglect.
Statewide, there were 26,871 substantiations for 2020.
At the end of last year, Jackson County concluded with 68 children in care, and statewide concluded with 16,193.
The U.S. numbers were shared by Seymour High School Jobs for America’s Graduates President Eduardo Zarate-Cortez during a pinwheel ceremony Monday morning at West Second Street and Community Drive in front of the school.
The placing of pinwheels is done in April each year for National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“The importance of putting up the pinwheels is to make people aware that behind these pinwheels is a child with a story and how they overcame child abuse,” Zarate-Cortez said.
The pinwheels represent a child’s playfulness and joyfulness and serve as a reminder that all children deserve happy, healthy childhoods.
“We hope that when people see the pinwheels, they see them as a figure of awareness for child abuse and that they should consider helping a child in need,” Zarate-Cortez said. “We feel like schools, businesses and other corporations can get involved with this movement by getting pinwheels and setting up fliers around the workplace to remind workers that child abuse is an issue.”
The local and state numbers were provided by Robyn Dykstra, local office director for the Department of Child Services.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families and children greatly, including how the community engages with them and the safety concerns that are arising.
“Infant safe sleep is an area of needed community focus for 2021,” Dykstra siad. “We must continue to focus on safe sleep awareness and education as well as partner for improved outcomes.”
Charlotte Moss, community services director for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services in Jackson County, leads the annual effort in placing pinwheels around the county in April.
Besides SHS, they are outside Brownstown Central Middle School, Brownstown Central High School, Crothersville Junior-Senior High School and Medora Community Schools.
They also were placed at Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor in Crothersville; the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown; the Community Agency Building, Seymour Police Department, Schneck Medical Center, Jackson County Health Department, Child Care Network, Boys and Girls Club of Seymour and Jackson County Public Library, all in Seymour; and Ogilville Christian Church in Ogilville.
The pinwheels outside the school in Crothersville were placed April 1 by members of Teens 4 Change and Students Against Destructive Decisions.
Junior Kaylee Caudill, who is involved with Teens 4 Change, said the school participates each year to spread awareness that child abuse is a real thing.
“I think it’s very important we just spread the awareness to show that kids are being abused,” she said. “There are children out there that probably don’t have a stable home and that need help.”
Junior Ella Plasse, a member of SADD, said it’s scary to think classmates and other kids in the community could be among those being abused or neglected.
“It’s not just something that happens on the news. It’s people in our town. It’s people in our school. It’s people in our community,” she said. “We just really need to spread awareness for this and show that we do take a stand against it and we don’t support children being abused whatsoever — anyone being abused. I think this is just a good way to show our support for that and just show that we stand against it.”
As people see the pinwheels, Caudill and Plasse both hope it will make them stop and think.
“If they have a neighbor who they think might not be in the best situation, just reach out, maybe talk to somebody that you don’t normally talk to because even if they are in a bad situation, talking to someone can help and that might encourage a person who is in that situation to step forward and say something,” Plasse said. “Just form those connections, build those bonds that you’re going to allow somebody to hopefully get help.”
Another program that helps children is Jackson County Guardian Ad Litem/Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Program Manager Deena Personett said more than 140 children in Jackson County were removed from their homes and placed in foster care in 2020.
“Child abuse. Child neglect. These are not easy topics. It is painful to think about children and youth experiencing abuse or neglect,” she said. “Sadly, it happens every day.”
Jackson County GAL/CASA is dedicated to helping these children, she said.
“Throughout Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, we hope you will join us in raising awareness about these issues and taking action to help children in need,” Personett said. “Abuse and neglect can happen to a child at any age. Babies are at the highest risk, as more than one-quarter of victims are younger than 3 years old.”
Whether a 3-month-old baby or a 15-year-old teenager, she said experiencing abuse or neglect has a lasting impact on a child.
“Fortunately, having a caring, consistent adult, like a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, can make all the difference,” Personett said.
This is especially true after a year of isolation and challenges presented by COVID-19, she said.
“So many things changed, but one thing that never changed was our commitment to being there for these children,” she said. “Jackson County GAL/CASA is determined to make sure every child in our county who has experienced abuse or neglect has a volunteer who will advocate for their needs and best interests.”
Right now, she said the organization is serving 95% of those children. With people’s support, they can do so much more.
Jackson County GAL/CASA currently is recruiting new volunteers to be a part of an upcoming training class beginning in May.
“If you are not able to volunteer but would like to help, you may make a monetary gift,” Personett said. “Your generous support will help us recruit, train and support more CASA volunteers so we can reach more children and help them thrive.”
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Jackson County Guardian Ad Litem/Court Appointed Special Advocates is recruiting new volunteers to be a part of an upcoming training class beginning in May.
If interested, contact Deena Personett at [email protected] or call 812-569-2598 or fill out an online application at in-jackson.evintosolutions.com/volunteerapplication.
If you aren’t able to volunteer but would like to help, monetary gifts are accepted.