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Breaking the cycle: Pinwheels depict number of child abuse cases in Hall County
Hannah Kadenhead walks through pinwheels she helped set up Friday afternoon on the front lawn of First Baptist Church on Green Street. Prevent Child Abuse Gainesville sponsored the pinwheel display in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. - photo by Tom Reed
They may add a colorful, springlike appearance to the front lawn of the First Baptist Church on Green Street, but the pinwheels placed there Friday afternoon signify a subject that is far from lighthearted: child abuse.

"These pinwheels represent the 630 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect for 2006 here in Hall County," said Dee Dee Mize, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Gainesville. "What we’re trying to do is make everybody understand that we have a lot of work to do and the numbers speak for themselves."

The aim of the statewide campaign is to raise public awareness of the problem during National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Mize said Hall County ranks eighth in the state in child abuse cases. She said some three-fourths of the 630 confirmed cases in 2006 were neglect, the rest were abuse. While the cases of child abuse have gone down, child neglect cases have increased. Mize attributes that rise to people calling authorities when they suspect neglect.

"People are calling in and reporting when they didn’t use to," Mize said. "Now, finally people are realizing that if they hear things or see things ... now they understand that they have to do these things."

Overall, the number of cases is declining, she said, as Hall County had been ranked sixth in the state.

Prevent Child Abuse Gainesville also offers parenting classes for parents of children from birth to 18 years old and holds seminars about bullying for schoolchildren.

"What we’re trying to do is break that cycle of behavior and ... it’s a learned behavior through their parents," Mize said.

Prevent Child Abuse Gainesville, which is part of the state and national programs, was established 20 years ago. The group holds fundraisers throughout the year to fund its programs and seminars and also operates through grant money.

"Our mission statement is to help educate the community on how to recognize and prevent child abuse and neglect," Mize said, who has been with Prevent Child Abuse Gainesville for 10 years. "Our children are our future and we need to treat them better because they are our future."

In Georgia, there were more than 50,000 cases investigated for child abuse or neglect last year. Many more cases never get reported. Throughout the month of April, offices of the Department of Family and Childrens Services in all of Georgia’s 159 counties will recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month with "Pinwheels for Prevention," placing one pinwheel for each abuse victim in the county.

"We really need the public to be our eyes and ears in helping to protect children," said Isabel Blanco, deputy director, Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. "Many times concerns are brought to DFCS’ attention before family circumstances rise to the level of child abuse and neglect. When this happens, we are able to provide family support services to address the problems and, overtime, bring stability to the family and safety to the child."

Prevent Child Abuse America has developed the "Five Rs" describing the role people can play in preventing child abuse:

  • Raise the issue by contacting elected officials to discuss the need for child abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
  • Reach out to children and parents.
  • Remember the risk factors, such as parents who abuse alcohol or drugs or appear having mounting personal problems.
  • Recognize the signs of abuse.
  • Report suspected abuse or neglect.