Health & Exercise

Pinwheel Garden Reflects Hope For Victims Of Child Abuse

Dozens of blue pinwheels fluttered in the sun on Courthouse Green in downtown Fort Wayne recently serving as a reminder that all children deserve joyful lives, including the hundreds of children and families in Allen County who are victims of child abuse.

Bowen Health Clinic staff joined with SCAN, Allen County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and the Indiana Department of Child Services to plant dozens of pinwheels to raise awareness of child abuse, and to share information about its effects on children and families, and how area agencies are working to help.

“We are here to say that child abuse is not a given and it can be prevented,” said Dr. Rob Ryan, Bowen Center President, and CEO. “Here in Indiana, we have 8,000 fewer cases of child maltreatment than five years ago. There are half as many children in foster care and there’s been a drop in reported maltreatment by over tens of thousands. Things are getting better. But there’s still more to do.”

Protecting children from harm, or further harm, is the top priority when a situation involving child abuse is encountered. Watching over that process is the court system.

“Today there are almost 900 Children known by the court in Allen County to be victims of child abuse and neglect,” said Nancy Springer, Director, Allen County CASA. “We are working hard with some of the partners here at this event to make sure that abuse doesn’t continue and that we provide children with the services that they need in order to be successful and to strive today and in the future.”

Child abuse affects a child’s mental and physical health and can negatively affect them throughout their life.

“The toxic stress or prolonged stress associated with childhood trauma can negatively impact children’s brain development, immune systems, and stress response systems,” said Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, VP of Clinical Services, Bowen Center. ”That childhood trauma has lasting negative effects and is linked to a wide range of life-threatening health issues including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide.”

“So how can we prevent childhood trauma?“ Dr. Liebetrau continued. We can promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity. We can ensure a strong start for children with initiatives such as early childhood home visitation, high-quality childcare, and preschool enrichment with family engagement. We can teach skills such as social-emotional learning, healthy relationship skills, and parenting skills. We can connect youth with caring adults and activities. We can also intervene to lessen immediate as well as long-term harm by providing ease of access to primary care, mental health care, and addiction treatment.

These real solutions require communication and coordination between the many groups looking to protect children, and to help them heal and thrive again.

“It is wonderful to see all of these organizations coming together to impact the future of the children in our community,” said Lisa Blanchard, VP Prevention Services, SCAN. “Kids don’t come with instructions, and it truly takes the community (to help.) Together we can ensure that children can embrace and feel their worth.”

Family, friends, and neighbors are usually the first to recognize when something is wrong.

“It’s important to recognize families and communities that work together to collaborate to prevent abuse and neglect. Through this collaboration, we really can keep children safe,” said Erin Shidler, Regional Manager, Indiana Department of Child Services. Part of that collaboration, she says, is to not keep quiet if you think there might be a problem.

“I would like to remind everybody today that all Hoosiers are required to report suspected abuse or neglect,” Shidler said. “So, anyone who suspects abuse or neglect has occurred, please call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline. (1-800-800-5556).

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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