Pinwheels are a call to prevent child abuse
Pinwheels are a call for help
By Lynn Hobbs
Two hundred pinwheels spin in the breeze on the Putnam County Courthouse lawn to remind all who pass by that Putnam County has an unusually high number of child abuse cases and community involvement can reduce those numbers.
Georgia is 42nd in the nation in child wellbeing, and the number of Putnam County’s child abuse cases exceeds the state’s average, officials said during a ceremony Tuesday morning in front of the courthouse. The ceremony was not for awareness, but prevention of child abuse, emphasized Nickie Corbitt, director of Putnam County Department of Family and Children Services.
In 2016, Putnam County had 196 reports of abuse or neglect, and at least 69 of those were substantiated, Corbitt said. The county currently has 28 children in foster care, and there are not enough local foster homes, she added.
“Yes, DFCS is head of preventing child abuse, but we couldn’t manage it without the help from the community,” Corbitt said during her presentation. “My staff works tirelessly, 24/7, at midnight, on weekends and Christmas because child abuse doesn’t stop just because it’s a holiday. Foster parents and adoptive parents are a God-send for us.”
Putnam County Board of Commission Chairman Dr. Steve Hersey thanked Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Senior Pastor Velde T. Hardy for organizing the event and “for bringing this topic into a public venue. So many times, people hide it in the shadows because they are embarrassed or ashamed,” he said.
In addition to physical abuse and neglect, Hersey said he learned when he previously served on the board of education that many families fail to provide children with an appropriate environment for them to grow into emotionally healthy adults.
“Every child needs to identify as part of a group,” he explained. “Every child needs a hero, not necessarily wearing a cape and possessing super powers, but someone living an example before them, someone who provides support when that child needs it. Too often, even when there is no physical abuse in the home, the family does not provide a sense of belonging, a sense of support. That’s where you folks out here come into play. Today, think about how you can be a hero. I ask you not just to commit April as your child abuse prevention month, but make child abuse prevention your lifelong ambition.”
Hersey read a proclamation naming April child abuse prevention month in Putnam County, and he also read one from the City of Eatonton.
Head Start Director Christel Nelson explained pinwheels are the national symbol for child abuse prevention, and blue is the symbolic color.
“By its very nature, the pinwheel connotes whimsy and childlike notions. In essence, it has come to serve as the physical embodiment, or reminder, of the great childhoods we want for all children,” Nelson said.
The approximately 60 people in attendance, including Head Start pupils of Stacy Vining’s class, were given blue pinwheels to plant in the courthouse lawn. They planted 200 pinwheels, Nelson said, because that is the number of babies born to Putnam County each year.
The program was hosted by Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Hardy, and included officials from Putnam County DFCS, Family Treatment Court, Putnam County Health Department, Putnam County Board of Commissioners, the City of Eatonton, the District Attorney’s office of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, Putnam County Head Start and State Representative Trey Rhodes.
This poem was written by Putnam County parent Robert Rutherford and was read during Tuesday’s ceremony:
Can pinwheels stop child abuse?
Some say “No! What’s the use?”
Here’s the thing I have found
Of seeing pinwheels in the ground
They turn and spin around, so free
Exactly as a child should be
Showing their colors, delighting all others
Blown by the breath of their Fathers and Mothers
But, all aren’t so lucky, here in this place
Too often, there are tears on an innocent’s face
Abused or neglected or things of this sort
We are their guardians and we must report
If we are aware, we are called to react
And stand up for the children! Let’s make a pact!
To observe and involved ourselves, all of our days
And bless the dear children in this vital way!
Pinwheels remind us of what we should do
I’ll stand up for the children! Will you?