JEFFERSON — With help from various community leaders, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Jackson County planted 131 pinwheels in Pocket Park in downtown Jefferson.
Generally, whenever you see a brightly colored pinwheel blowing in the wind, it probably brings up carefree, childhood memories.
But on Wednesday, they served as a less lighthearted reminder.
Each of the pinwheels represented a case of child abuse or neglect in Jackson County.
“These aren’t just pinwheels. They represent actual children and cases of abuse or neglect that we unfortunately couldn’t stop,” said Courtney McVey, executive director of The Tree House, an organization dedicated to reducing the impact of child abuse.
“Although we couldn’t stop those cases, we can honor those children by doing what we can to prevent future cases.”
The placing of the pinwheels was a part of an annual ceremony at the park.
This year’s ceremony was held during National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Each year, the number of pinwheels goes down,” said Annette Raymond, executive director of the Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
“Our goal is to eliminate abuse and neglect (completely).”
During the ceremony, officials also shared a plea for more local adults to become adoptive parents.
“Right now, we have temporary custody of around 75 Jackson County children — about 50 of those are placed in foster homes outside of Jackson County,” said Jerra Wisecup, of the Jackson County Department of Family and Children Services.
One of the reasons why children are placed in foster homes outside of the county is because local foster families can’t accommodate siblings or a child with special needs.
Children from Jackson can be placed in foster homes anywhere in the state, Wisecup said.
Although dozens of children are under the state’s temporary authority, Wisecup said the numbers aren’t as high as they once were — around 95 cases two years ago — because more is being done to place children with a relative or family friends.
DFACS administrators say they are also doing more to eliminate child abuse cases before they start by counseling parents who themselves were victims of abuse.
The number of abuse and neglect cases may be decreasing, but officials say the cases that do make it to court are becoming more complex and severe.
“We all have something that we can do to help prevent abuse and neglect,” said McVey.
“It’s the bravest thing they can do, but it’s not just up to the child to tell if they are being abused. It’s up to the adults in the community to be on the lookout for the signs.”