By Rebecca Schatt
As seen in the Ocala Star Banner on April 13, 2014
Have you seen the blue and silver pinwheels spinning around Ocala?
Every April, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, Kids Central and its partners work to plant pinwheels across Ocala and Marion County. Pinwheels serve as a reminder to all that children deserve to have a free childhood — free from abuse, free from drugs, free from neglect, free from violence. These pinwheels are Pinwheels for Prevention, and Kids Central plants gardens of them to increase awareness of what is happening in our communities.
One of the reasons I’m writing this letter is to educate our community on what is happening in Ocala/Marion County. During 2013, almost 4,500 abuse reports from Marion County were received by the Florida Abuse Hotline — that’s between 350 and 450 reports every month! Of those reported in 2013, almost 1,000 children were verified to have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. Thirty-seven percent of the verified child abuse involved family violence.
This does not have to continue. I challenge you to do a few simple things to help families struggling with these issues.
First and foremost, be vigilant. Being aware of what is happening around you allows you to notice when something is amiss. Never hesitate to report suspected abuse. Call the hotline at 800-96-ABUSE.
Second, be a support to family, friends and neighbors. Parents, especially young parents, parents of multiple children or single parents, can become overwhelmed. Offer words of encouragement, or offer to baby-sit or just listen.
Finally, when you speak up and acknowledge the problem in a nonjudgmental fashion, others will listen, and some may seek help.
For more information on child abuse in our community, visit EndKidsTears.com.
Community Development Committee
Kids Central Inc. Board of Directors