Pass the Pinwheel event sheds light on child abuse statistics

Pinwheels symbolize childhood as it should be: safe, happy and healthy.

With this in mind, local leaders and volunteers fanned out across the city on Friday to pass out blue pinwheels in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“We want our kids to grow up safe and happy and healthy, and to do that we need a village,” said Amanda Brunson, head of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, during a meeting at City Hall to kick off the awareness campaign.

Nearly 12,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect throughout the state during 2016, enough to fill 594 classrooms, according to the organization’s website. Among those 41 died, enough children to fill two classrooms.

The statistics are staggering, Brunson said, but they don’t have to be. She said about 80 percent of incidents involve neglect and can be solved with increasing resources and support for parents.

Livable wages, flexible work schedules, access to high-quality early care, and letting parents know that “it’s OK to ask for help” are key areas where improvements could be made, she said.

Brunson said some of the most significant improvements can come from ordinary members of a community, in their work and neighborhoods, stepping in to help others when they notice a problem.

She said passing a pinwheel reminds people that they do play a part in preventing and calling out abuse and neglect whether they realize it or not.

Mayor Nic Hunter said having his son, Harrison, now 8 months old, has made him more appreciative of efforts like those of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana to safeguard at-risk children.

“There’s something about when you become a parent, these statistics start to hit you a bit more,” Hunter said.

He said he hopes the Pass the Pinwheel event is the “spark for some more education for all of us.”

Karl Bruchhaus, superintendent of Calcasieu Parish schools, said the event put him in mind of a recent incident at a local middle school where it came to light that a student was going through abuse.

“The whole school virtually shut down for a couple of days,” Bruchhaus said. “They were literally in tears over that one child out of the 200.”

He said it’s easy to get pigeonholed in the circle of one’s family and friends and forget to “open our eyes to what’s going on around us.”

Calcasieu Parish Coroner Terry Welke said the cases of child fatalities he sees as a result of abuse and neglect are often caused by frustration. Parents aren’t sleeping at night and sometimes act rashly, such as shaking a baby.

In other cases, however, the deaths are a result of “pure evil,” a more difficult problem to combat, he said.

Welke shared of seeing the bodies of young children burned and scarred by horrific abuse. He urged people, “If you see something, say something.”

Many times residents may notice something but assume it’s not their place or feel afraid to embarrass the parents, Welke said. But it’s a risk they should take when a child’s mental health and life are at stake.

Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, founded in 1986, supports parents and children, from help with potty training to keeping children safe from sexual abuse, with evidencebased programs and community-based education.

For more information, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.pcal.org.””

Calcasieu Parish School Superintendant Karl Bruchhaus hands Aniston Fenetz, the daughter of Cherie Fenetz, a pinwheel at Prien Lake Mall on Friday during the Pass the Pinwheel event hosted by Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

RickHickmanPhotographer
https://www.americanpress.com/content/tncms/avatars/6/d3/ea1/6d3ea1c8-3a6c-11e7-a1c2-0f91a5883b36.b31acdd1ef972ec0a2acb8ea5b28d153.png
””

Local leaders and volunteers distributed blue pinwheels throughout the city on Friday in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

RickHickmanPhotographer
https://www.americanpress.com/content/tncms/avatars/6/d3/ea1/6d3ea1c8-3a6c-11e7-a1c2-0f91a5883b36.b31acdd1ef972ec0a2acb8ea5b28d153.png