Shining light on child abuse PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 09:20
Gracelynn Mills (left) and Aliyah Bridges (middle) of the First United Methodist Church Preschool, carry pinwheels to plant in commemeration of child abuse prevention. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Beams of colored light shined off spinning pinwheel blades Wednesday morning, recognizing child abuse cases in Wood County and the hope for a better future.
The 777 blue pinwheels, one for each case investigated in 2013, are five fewer than last year, but they represent a steady stream of child abuse incidents.
"It represents the whole gamut of the cases that we receive," Sandi Carsey, Children's Services administrator, said of the shimmering field of pinwheels.
Several child deaths contributed to the numbers early in 2013, but fortunately fell off and balanced out with no fatalities the rest of the year, said Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Job and Family Services.
While deaths were few, abuse was still high, and many cases, particularly those involving neglect, were connected to drug use, Wigent said.
"Our toughest cases tend to be neglect cases. They cycle through - you can work with a family for a period of time, close out the case, and a high percentage of those cases come back into the system," he said.
Wigent said there is a common link between drug use by parents or caretakers and abuse cases specifically involving neglect, and that drug use frequently leads to repeat problems.
Carsey said those cases are often the most difficult to correct, because those using drugs must focus first on their own recovery before trying to become better parents.
"It's a long process to have that happen. We want parents to be able to raise their children safely, and if they're on drugs, they really can't do that," Carsey said.
First United Methodist Church preschooler Jackson Vetter (right), plants a pinwheels in commemeration of child abuse prevention.
"Those (cases) are increasing, and they're much more difficult to deal with."
Agencies have taken a softer approach with some situations since last summer, under an alternative response system designed to more closely connecting with families in lower-risk cases, Wigent said.
"We focus a lot on engaging with the family and getting them into services rather than accusing them of being child abusers, which often makes them defensive and not willing to work with us."
Rather than involving law enforcement and the threat of criminal charges, the method involves coaxing improvements over time. Wigent said the model is being applied across the country, including all counties in Ohio.
"It's kind of the new trend in protective services, to not treat every case the same and try to identify your lower-risk cases and taking a more engaging approach," Wigent said.
Report potential child abuse by contacting the Children's Services hotline at 419-354-9669. Carsey urged those who suspect abuse to not hesitate to call. "We want to help them, and help them be better parents," she said.
"You could save a child's life and help a family."

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 12:10

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