KeepHealthCare.ORG – Pinwheels symbolize childhood hope, health, happiness | News
With the right seed, soil and proper care, a garden will grow. That’s the message of the Orange County Office on Youth (OOY) this year after it planted 960 pinwheels in 28 different gardens around the county this April as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Pinwheels, the national symbol of childhood hope, health and happiness, were sold by the office as part of its partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, the Virginia Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention and the Virginia Department of Social Services as part of the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign. The pinwheels represent children in the community who these organizations want to ensure have safe, healthy and nurtured childhoods.
Ashley Jacobs, program coordinator at the Office on Youth, said this year more than two dozen individuals and local businesses purchased gardens to be planted in front of their home or business. A large garden of 260 pinwheels was planted at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 15. Other pinwheel gardens can be seen in front of county offices, Virginia Tractor, Stonewall Harley-Davidson, Lake of the Woods, Edwards Store and throughout the county. Each of the gardens includes a sign from Prevent Child Abuse America.
This is the fifth year the OOY has participated in the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, and the most successful year to date, Jacobs added.
“We are pleased to have a combined total of 960 pinwheels throughout Orange County representing the community’s commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect,” she said.
This year, 700 more pinwheels were planted than last year. Jacobs said the OOY partnered with the Orange County Department of Social Services and its board on this year’s pinwheel campaign effort. It was through that partnership that the idea of marketing directly to local businesses was developed.
“The increased participation signifies that as a community we are willing to work together to support local families and the best interests of our young residents,” Jacobs said.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Orange County. The proclamation, presented to the OOY in March, notes “child abuse and neglect is a community problem that depends on involvement among people throughout the community,” and “the majority of child abuse cases stem from situations and conditions that are preventable in an engaged and supportive community.”
The proclamation represents the county’s pledge to “work together as a community to advocate for healthy childhoods for all children,” Jacobs added.
Orange County Director of Social Services Crystal Hale said she hopes the citizens of Orange will see her department as a community partner, which is “here not only to investigate reports of abuse and neglect but also to proactively work with children and families to prevent abuse from occurring.”
Over the past 12 months, Hale said the Orange County Department of Social Services (DSS) received 300 child protective services (CPS) reports. Of those reports, 225 met the criteria for child abuse and were deemed valid complaints, Hale said.
“The current opioid crisis has had a profound and negative impact on the children in our community,” Hale said, noting many of the CPS reports she receives are linked to drug activity, primarily by parents.
If a parent is a drug addict, children could be exposed and addicted to drugs at birth and often lack adequate supervision or care, she said.
“We also receive many reports as a result of domestic violence in the home,” she said. “Children who are exposed to domestic violence can suffer lasting effects. The dynamics within the family unit and the impact on the child can often be difficult to clearly identify and address but it is clearly a problem.”
According to the Virginia DSS, “the goal of CPS is to identify, assess and provide services to children and families in an effort to protect children, preserve families, whenever possible, and prevent further maltreatment.”
The local DSS is responsible for receiving CPS reports, conducting investigations to determine the validity of the reports and providing the necessary services to enhance a child’s safety and prevent further abuse and neglect within the family.
“Child abuse occurs in various ways and does not always present as the stereotypical child with obvious bruising, tattered clothing, and/or a fearful demeanor,” Hale explained. “Abuse can be physical, mental, sexual, and also includes various forms of mental and physical neglect.”
Abandonment, lack of supervision, inadequate medical and mental healthcare and inadequate basic care are all forms of abuse, she added.
“Sometimes, people do not report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect because they fear that they may be overstepping their boundaries or that they may not have all the facts or could be wrong about the situation,” she said, stressing the importance of reporting any suspicious behavior to DSS. “If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, do not wait until you are 100 percent sure. Our office has trained professionals who can take a report, determine if it meets our criteria and investigate accordingly. Sometimes through this process, we identify children who are not yet victims but whose families need additional assistance and/or services to help them to be able to better thrive.”
She said people who report suspected child abuse can choose to remain anonymous.
To report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to Orange County Department of Social Services, call 672-1155 (Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or call the Virginia CPS State Hotline at 800-552-7096 (available 24/7).
“Unfortunately, abuse and neglect of children occurs throughout our community and is not limited to any one particular demographic,” Hale said. “Many people think abuse and neglect does not occur in their neighborhood but that is usually very far from the truth.”
According to the Virginia DSS, every 76 minutes, a child is abused or neglected in Virginia and every 9.6 days in the state a child dies as a result of abuse or neglect.
The theme for the 2018 Virginia Child Abuse Prevention Month is “Building Brighter Childhoods,” with the wish all children will be valued and the idea that everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect in their communities.
Hale said education is vital in order to prevent child abuse and neglect. She said not only does she wish citizens will see her agency as a trustworthy resource they can reach out to for help and utilize to its fullest potential, but she hopes people will also see child abuse as a community issue.
When child abuse is found in the home, it can “cause families not only great heartache, but also can create legal troubles, a financial burden and sometimes can cause a division of the family unit,” Hale said.
A child’s safety is the primary goal of DSS, she added, noting whenever possible the department seeks ways to keep the family together, whether it’s through assisting with needed services and/or engaging other family members to help as much as possible.
“I feel it is often a misconception that DSS will immediately swoop in and take children out of the home upon receiving a CPS report,” she said. “There are times when we have no other choice but to remove children from an unsafe environment but more often than not, there are other options that we can explore first.”
The effects of child abuse and neglect extend beyond the home and can impact extended family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and other relationships, Hale explained. School staff, social workers and administrators are continuously working to address the impacts they see on students, she said. Local government also is affected financially.
“The services required for abused children and their families are often extensive and expensive,” Hale said.
There are currently 35 children in foster care through the Orange DSS, Hale said, and in the past 12 months there have been 43 children in foster care locally. The basic maintenance cost for a child (without special needs) in foster care is $700 per month, not including administrative costs for social workers, transportation and court costs, Hale said.
Orange County is witnessing substantial increases in services needed for at-risk youth and their families through the Children’s Services Act (CSA). The program, provided by a combination of local and state funds, allows for children with behavioral or emotional problems and their families to be served through foster care, mentorship, special education services and other services deemed necessary.
In the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19, the county allocated more than $3 million toward the program. Orange County Administrator Bryan David said the proposed amount was based on fiscal year 2017-18 expenditures, but given current expenditures, CSA may require additional funding.
The Orange County DSS is always in need of more local foster families, Hale said, which decreases the number of children the department has to send out of their own community—which can inflict additional trauma to the child. Those interested in becoming a foster family can call Vicky Tidman at 672-1155.
Meanwhile the OOY is working on raising awareness through its Facebook page called “Prevent Child Abuse -Orange County, VA.” During the month, the OOY will post a daily child abuse prevention tip.
On Saturday, April 14, the OOY and guests will attend a Flying Squirrels game in Richmond in hopes of “striking out” child abuse. A portion of ticket sales by the Office on Youth will go directly to support costs associated with the office’s efforts to prevent child abuse, including raising awareness. Jacobs said each business with a pinwheel garden was provided informational brochures on child abuse prevention to hand out to anyone curious about the pinwheels. Jacobs said all funds raised by the tickets and pinwheels the OOY sold will support either local efforts, state efforts or nationwide efforts through their office or Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Prevent Child Abuse America.
For more information on the OOY, call 672-5484 or visit www.orangecountyva.gov/officeonyouth. For additional resources and statistics on child abuse and neglect, visit the Virginia Department of Social Services website at www.dss.virginia.gov/family/prevention.cgi.