Officials from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and the United Way of East Central Alabama positioned 344 pinwheels provided by the Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center at the corner of Ninth Street and Quintard Avenue. Each one of the toys represents a child abuse case investigated by the center last year.
The Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center is a nonprofit organization that investigates crimes against children and offers counseling to abused children and their families.
Joe Nabors, executive director of the center, said this marks the sixth year the group has used pinwheels to recognize April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“This brings notoriety to child abuse that’s occurring in our area,” Nabors said.
The same number of pinwheels were also placed at 613 Pelham Road S. in Jacksonville so more locals could see what they represent.
“It’s a way for us to remind the public to be careful with their children and about the safety issues we face daily with our children,” Nabors said.
Nabors said 90 percent of the center’s cases involve sexual abuse. Others range from physical abuse to a child witnessing a violent crime. Ê
Lt. Jon Garlick, a mental health officer at the Sheriff’s Office, said the Children’s Center has allowed law enforcement officers to strengthen their cases without hurting the children in the process. Garlick said before child advocacy groups, officers were required to interview abused children, which sometimes caused more harm.
“The children would often times be asked questions that were inappropriate and sometimes hurtful and many times the cases were not dealt with properly,” Garlick said.
Garlick said children now receive counseling from the moment the abuse is reported and are prepared for courtroom experiences.
“The children are handled with great care and the case is built gently,” Garlick said.
The lieutenant said most children are able to recover from abuse with the help of therapy and a good family environment. Garlick said even one child abuse case in the county is too many and parents need to be made aware of the signs of abuse. Making inappropriate references, especially above a child’s comprehension level, suffering from severe nightmares and bed wetting can all be signs of abuse, Garlick said.
“Parents should never be afraid of calling and raising the red flag,” Garlick said. “It’s better that we talk to someone and find out nothing happened than to ignore somebody who needs help.”
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.