Pinwheels for Prevention

Social workers from the Georgia Department of Families and Children gathered Wednesday afternoon in the Rose City to remind people that child abuse won't easily be overlooked.

Employees were sticking pinwheels in the ground throughout the community to catch peoples’ attention and hope the colorful decorations will remind others to watch as closely for the often-subtle signs of abuse and neglect.

Swirling pinwheels are often a source of delight for children and adults alike, but DFACS social workers say these particular pinwheels represent the pain of abused kids across the state.

Linda Hogan, director of Thomas County DFACS, says "What we want with these colorful pinwheels is to raise community awareness and to engage to community in helping up with this very serious problem."

April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. DFACS employees say each of these 160 pinwheels they've put out on the courthouse lawn represents a child who was reported to be neglected or abused in Thomas County over the last year.

"We just look at it as only tipping the iceberg as to the actual number of cases that happened. These are just the ones that have been reported to us," says Chris Cooper, a child abuse investigator.

Janie Owens, a social service case worker, adds, "They catch peoples’ eye, they make people wonder what they're out here for and of course with our banner it's kind of obvious, but it also raises awareness. Maybe we can help some of these families deal with their problems before they have to come into our system."

Social workers say in a perfect world they won't have to put out pinwheels next year, and by starting their awareness campaign early this year, they hope to see less victims than in the past.

The pinwheels will be left out on the courthouse lawn until the end of this week.

DFACS offices all over the state are participating in "pinwheels for prevention" this week. All in all, 24,435 incidents of child abuse were substantiated across the state in 2003, so that's how many pinwheels will be turning in yards this week.