Thousands of little blue pinwheels are showing up outside Franklin County businesses and government centers this month. As we watch them spinning in the breeze, they remind us of the carefree, lighthearted days of childhood. Sadly, they symbolize the 11,000 cases of child abuse reported in Franklin County last year. The month of April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention month, a time to raise awareness about the difference each of us can make in the lives of the children around us.
 
My work with the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund over the last four years has opened my eyes to the devastating effects that child abuse has on society as a whole, not just on individual families. Neglect and abuse severely impair the physical, emotional and social development of children. Abused children often develop chronic health problems and suffer from poor self-esteem. The tragic reality is that these victims are far more likely to become adults who abuse and neglect their own children.
 
Fortunately, there is a growing movement in Ohio to prevent abuse and provide more effective care for the victims. In central Ohio, the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund partners with the Franklin County Family and Children First Council to confront the problem head on.  Using a model of trauma-informed practices, they train teachers, medical professionals and other service providers to work with families that are most at risk for perpetuating the cycle of violence and neglect.
 
Many of us are not professionally trained to work with abused children, but we all have a part to play in preventing child abuse and neglect. As a father of three, I understand what a hard job parenting can be at times. Simple gestures, from praising good parenting to offering a little extra support to caregivers who seem overwhelmed, can make a major impact on families that are struggling. In severe cases, taking the time to report cases of suspected child abuse to 855-O-H-CHILD can literally save the life of a child.
 
To help raise awareness this month, I invite you to join me in wearing blue on Ohio’s annual “Wear Blue” Day on April 8th and post a photo of yourself with a pinwheel on social media (#PinwheelSelfie @OhioCTF). You can also join volunteers in planting pinwheels around the county, demonstrating our collective commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect.  No matter how small, every one of our efforts to draw attention to this problem can make a critical difference in the life of a child.
 
To learn more about Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, please visit the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund website at http://www.jfs.ohio.gov/octf.

 
 
 
  
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