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Child Abuse Prevention Month Celebrated in Oswego

By Kimberly Ingram, Contributing Writer

OSWEGO, NY – There were 46,659 indicated reports of child abuse and neglect in New York State in 2012, according to Christine Deyss, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New York.

Oswego City School District students, grades 4, 5 and 6  participating in their  Pinwheels for Prevention pinwheel display. Photo contributed by Mary Helen Park.
Oswego City School District students, grades 4, 5 and 6 participating in their Pinwheels for Prevention pinwheel display. Photo contributed by Mary Helen Park.

During April, many local organizations are spreading awareness, including the Oswego City School District who is spreading child abuse awareness and raising funds with their own “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign.

The Oswego City School District Pinwheels for Prevention campaign began last year.

Although 2014 is only its second year participating, the campaign seems to be growing in popularity, according to Mary Helen Park, coordinator of the OSCD campaign.

“The goal of the campaign to raise awareness as well as money for the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego,” Park said.

Park learned about the campaign volunteering at the advocacy center and decided she wanted to bring it to the district. Last year she reached out to the school superintendent, and he recommended she spread the campaign throughout the entire district.

“Pinwheels are a symbol of a happy, healthy childhood,” Park said.

The district participates in bringing awareness through this campaign by making and selling pinwheels for a dollar a piece, all proceeds go to the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County.

They also made pinwheels, hung them up throughout the hallways, and then put them into the ground in the school gardens throughout April.

“I hear children are very excited to participate,” Park said.

The student council of the middle schools and high schools in the district raise money and plant pinwheels in gardens, while elementary students get involved by selling pinwheels at their art festival.

The mission of Pinwheels for Prevention is to prevent the abuse and neglect of America’s children, according the organization’s webpage.

This campaign aims to transform awareness about this issue into action. They chose to use pinwheels as their campaign basis to remind people of childhood memories, standing for a chance to have the healthy and happy full life that a child deserves.

Pinwheels for Prevention began as a campaign among the few starting chapters in Georgia, Florida, and Ohio.

The campaign grew to be a nationwide effort in 2008 with their desire to create the pinwheel as the national symbol of child abuse and neglect prevention, their website said.

Pinwheels for Prevention is in conjunction with Prevent Child Abuse America, one of many groups currently advocating for child abuse prevention.

This organization was founded in 1972 in Chicago by Donna J. Stone and originally known as The National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, according to a Zachary Hiner, External Communications Manager at Prevent Child Abuse America.

“Today, our chapter network is present in every state in the country, with the most recent addition being Mississippi in 2011,” Hiner said. “From the beginning, much of our work has been to raise awareness, not only of child abuse as an issue, but more importantly to the idea that this can be prevented.”

In 1994, their prevention program called Healthy Families America was created.

It is a home visiting service that today is active in more than 38 states as well as Canada, the U.S Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rica, and the Marianas, according to Hiner.

In 1999, the organization changed their name to Prevent Child Abuse America.

“Since 1999, our awareness efforts have led to a result of over 90% of the American public now recognizing that child abuse is a serious issue, and so we changed our focus to one that is exclusively centered on how people can prevent this abuse,” Hiner said.

Their campaign is headlined by Pinwheels for prevention, which has been an extremely successful way to establish the idea that everyone plays a role in prevention and healthy child development.

Other Oswego organizations have also showed their support of Child Abuse Awareness month. On April 12, the SUNY Oswego varsity men’s hockey team and the brothers of Delta Kappa Kappa came together to hold their “For the Kids Child Abuse Awareness” charity fundraiser at The Shed in Oswego. This was an all day and all night event that featured a barbeque, auction, and live music, attracting the attention of many supporters. This event raised a total of 3,600 dollars, including 1,000 dollars from an online donation site created for the event, according to a news release on the event.

All funds raised were donated to the Oswego Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County.

On April 26, another SUNY Oswego group raised awareness as well with the Child Abuse Prevention Race organized starting in February by Lambda Pi Eta members, University Police, Campus Life, the Fitness Center, and the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, according to Sara Cooper, President of Lambda Pi Eta.

The race was open to anyone to walk or run at their own pace, including students, faculty, and members of the community. The race spread awareness with informational flyers distributed to participants about the Child Advocacy Center. All proceeds, a total of 132 dollars, from race participation fees were donated to the Advocacy Center, according to Cooper.

In 1982, Congress decided that the week of June 6 to 12 would be designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention week, according to the National Children’s Alliance website. The next year, April was announced as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since then, abuse and neglect awareness activities have been promoted across the country during April.

Child Abuse is defined in law at Section 412 of the Social Services Law and at Section 1012 of the Family Court Act, according to Jamie Butler, an intern at the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County. “One important thing is that there are no child abuse laws specifically, there is only ‘endangering the welfare of a child’ at the family court level, and that is a misdemeanor with up to one year of jail time,” Butler said. “It can range from leaving a child unattended in a car to extreme physical abuse. There are major problems in the law and system regarding child abuse, and child abuse prevention.”

In 2008, there were 1,836 total reports of abuse in Oswego County investigated by social services, according to Child Protective Services statistics published by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. In 2009, this number increased to 2,091.
In 2012, Oswego County had 667 indicated reports of child abuse involving 1,101 children, according to Deyss. An “indicated” or “founded” report means that child protective services found credible evidence that a child was abused or neglected.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, a 24 hour a day seven day a week hotline answered by crisis counselors, has received a total of over 23,000 calls since January 2014, according to Randi Rodarte, Communications Project Manager at Childhelp. “About 1,800 of those calls were received from the state of New York, and almost 200 of those were from area code 315,” Rodarte said.

In 2012, the latest year of released statewide child abuse statistics, there were 46,659 indicated reports of child abuse and neglect in New York, according to Deyss. There were also 71,388 children who were found to have been abused and neglected by child protective services. “That is about one-third of all reports that were received by the state hotline (the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment),” Deyss said.

In 2011, there were approximately 742,000 instances of confirmed child maltreatment in the United States, according to a report by the Children’s Bureau, a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The overall child victim rate was 9.9 child victims per 1,000 children in the population.

The report showed statewide child victim rates varied dramatically, ranging from 1.2 victims per 1,000, to 24 victims per 1,000. However, the national child victim rate decreased from findings in 2008, when there were 10.3 victims per 1,000 in the population. This data is a continuation of a downward trend in child victim numbers that began in the early 1900s, the report said.

The report also showed that the percentage of child victims of a particular race or ethnicity varied among states. In 2011, there were multiple states in which the percentage of minority victims was much larger than the percentage of these children in the state populations. These disproportionate representations were found for African American children victims in 27 states, Alaska Native or American Indian children victims in 15 states, and 10 states reported two or more races with this issue.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S territories have their own child abuse and neglect reporting laws that require mandated professionals and institutions to report suspicion of mistreatment to child protective services agencies, a 2012 Child Maltreatment report by the Child’s Bureau stated. Each state has its own definitions of abuse and neglect, but they are all formed under an existing definition of child abuse and neglect defined by federal legislation. Most states, however, recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, physiological maltreatment, or sexual abuse.

This 2012 report also showed that victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 21.9 percent per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population. Both genders have a relatively close percentage of abuse accounts, boys at 48.7 percent of victims and girls at 50.9 percent of victims. More than 75 percent of reported child abuse victims suffered neglect, more than 15 percent suffered physical abuse, and 9.3 percent suffered sexual abuse.

The national rate of child abuse caused fatalities in 2012 was 2.2 deaths per 100,000 children, of which 80 percent were caused by one or both parents. More than half of child abuse perpetrators are women and 82.2 percent of perpetrators are from 18 to 44 years old.

The report states that 45 states reported 3.2 million children received some sort of prevention services assistance during 2012.

When an allegation of abuse is received by Child Protection Agencies, it is either screened for further attention by CPS or screened out, the Child Maltreatment report said. In most states, the majority of reports are investigated and it is determined whether the child was at risk of maltreatment or maltreated. If this is the case, CPS will intervene, according to the Child Maltreatment report.

“Children’s safety and well being is always my number one concern, but being a mandated reporter is sometimes challenging,” according to Sara Bradley, Preschool Teacher and Mandated Reporter of Child Abuse in New York. “It is difficult to know that there is abuse or neglect going on in the home of a child, then making the phone call and having the report come back unfounded, especially when there are obvious signs and physical markings on the child.”

While the system helps many children, Bradley believes far too many fall through the cracks and are left to stay in neglectful or abusive situations.

“In my opinion CPS should make more than one visit when a report is made and there should be follow ups on all cases for a period of time even if the case is unfounded,” Bradley said.