Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Pinwheels for Prevention" hits all 88 Ohio counties

By Ashlee Monroe

Drivers passing Athens County Children’s Services on East State Street might notice a number of metallic pinwheels in front of its sign – 893 pinwheels, to be exact.
Each represents a case of child abuse or neglect reported to Athens County Children’s Services in the past year -- and those are only the reported cases. Andy Ellinger of ACCS says the pinwheels are meant to be a reminder to the public that abuse and neglect is happening right here in our community.
“We like to think that those 893 pinwheels are 893 people who took the time out of their day when they saw abuse or neglect happening to call us,” Ellinger said.

The pinwheel display is a part of the Pinwheels for Prevention program brought to Ohio by Prevent Child Abuse Ohio four years ago. Ellinger says that when the program started in the Buckeye state, seven of Ohio’s counties participated. That number has expanded to include all 88 counties this year. According to Prevent Child Abuse Ohio’s Web site, Pinwheels for Prevention was invented by Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. PCA-Ohio has a contract with PCA-Georgia to put the campaign on throughout Ohio’s 88 counties during the month of April, which is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
This year’s Pinwheels for Prevention campaign started in Ohio in Franklin County, where volunteers put 6,954 pinwheels in the ground. This year’s pinwheel features the “88 in 08” logo, which indicates that every county is participating this year. Anyone who is interested in supporting Pinwheels for Prevention can complete an order form for a lapel pin on PCA-Ohio’s Web site.
Ellinger says he wants Athens County residents who see the pinwheels to think of themselves as part of a safety net responsible for stopping child abuse and neglect. He says that the agency relies on phone calls and referrals from people who witness child abuse and neglect.
Ellinger says the fact that every county in Ohio is participating in Pinwheels for Prevention this year should show the public that child abuse and neglect does not only happen in inner-city or very rural areas. He says it should show Athens Countians that abuse is happening in their community, too.
Each child who enters the foster care system in Athens County is either adopted, placed with a foster family or placed in a therapeutic, foster-care environment.
“They all have homes,” Ellinger said.

Andy Ellinger of Athens County Children's Services discusses what it takes to be a foster parent.
ACCS has about 40 foster families in Athens County, and Ellinger says they are always looking for more volunteers. The organization holds informational meetings with prospective foster families, including one held earlier this week. The ACCS Web site always features a “Children Waiting” portion, which shows photos and descriptions of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted.

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