Twenty-two East High School Junior ROTC students planted a pinwheel garden Monday in Boardman Park to launch National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.
They planted 1,379 pinwheels on the highly-visible park lawn facing U.S. Route 224 to represent the number of child- abuse and neglect cases reported to Mahoning County Children Services in 2015.
The pinwheels, some blue and some multi-colored, began spinning rapidly in the brisk wind as soon as they were planted.
“It’s a national campaign, and we hope to raise awareness locally. … Pinwheels are the national symbol of child- abuse prevention,” said Jennifer T. Kollar, public information officer for Mahoning County Children Services.
An electronic billboard advertisement near South Avenue and U.S. Route 224 promotes the park display.
“We’re students that care about our community,” said Marvinia Fulks, an East High School junior and Junior ROTC battalion commander, as she and her fellow students planted the pinwheels.
“There are more than a thousand pinwheels out here,” she said, adding that the large number of pinwheels calls attention to the magnitude of the child abuse and neglect problem the community faces.
“We wanted to let everybody know how many children are getting abused,” she added.
At 9 a.m. Thursday, in the Rotary Room of the park’s Lariccia Family Community Center, Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr. of Mahoning County Probate Court will preside over the 11th annual Pinwheels for Prevention Community Event and Community Spotlight Award Presentation.
The event is sponsored by Mahoning County Children Services and by the Child Advocacy Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, Mahoning Valley.
Children Services investigates child abuse and neglect complaints.
The Child Advocacy Center interviews and medically evaluates alleged child abuse and neglect victims.
“We not only do it to help the prosecutors prosecute the offenders, but we also do it medically to make sure that the children are healthy,” Andrea Mistovich, CAC coordinator, said of her organization’s interview and evaluation process.
The CAC staff consists of a pediatrician, two nurses, a social worker and Mistovich.
CAC works closely with Children Services, prosecutors, law enforcement and mental health agency personnel in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
Teachers, day care and after school agency workers, and health care professionals are legally required to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the authorities, but any adult should report suspected child abuse or neglect cases, Mistovich said.
Such suspected cases should be reported to Children Services, she said. “Nobody has to be the expert. Let them be the experts,” she advised.
The pinwheel display was previously on the grounds of Akron Children’s Hospital, Mahoning Valley, but was relocated to the park this year because of construction on the hospital grounds.