Blue pinwheels represent national Pinwheels for Prevention campaign

Blue pinwheels represent national Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.

The Child Abuse Prevention Partnership of Douglas County is raising awareness of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and shining the spotlight on local efforts to prevent abuse and neglect of the youngest and most vulnerable in our community.

Five area agencies—Douglas C.A.R.E.S., Healthy Families Oregon, CASA of Douglas County, Family Development Center and Battered Persons Advocacy, work year-round to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families and educate the public about child abuse and neglect.

Members of the local community can show support for child abuse prevention by placing blue pinwheels in and around their homes, schools, churches and businesses. Blue pinwheels have been used as a symbol since 2008 in a national Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to raise awareness of child abuse prevention efforts because of the toy’s association with a happy, healthy childhood.

Douglas C.A.R.E.S., CASA of Douglas County, The Family Development Center, Battered Persons Advocacy and Healthy Families of Douglas County invite community members to purchase and display blue pinwheels in April—or post blue pinwheels on social media profiles—as a symbol of support for child abuse prevention efforts.

Finally, a free community event, the 13th annual Celebrate Children Day, is set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at Wildlife Safari to wrap up the month of awareness in our region.

• Douglas C.A.R.E.S. — Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services, a nonprofit organization providing assessment interviews, medical exams, counseling and referrals, established in 1994.

Executive Director Mike Nores: “We promote darkness to light as a prevention tool. We do public speaking to groups to educate them about child abuse prevention. We aid in domestic violence cases before they turn into child maltreatment. When we do have those cases, we get them in for assessments and treatment as soon as possible. We engage the families through our advocate for other resources that can aid the families.”

• Healthy Families Oregon – a statewide voluntary family support/parent education home visit program.

Regional Manager Carlos Gomez (Douglas, Lake and Klamath Counties): “We work alongside families in their environment to build up strengths parents already possess, provide necessary tools to expand on parenting skills, and of course, promote child and parent attachment. We have so much to celebrate with our team and families in the work we do. In our most recent Healthy Families of Oregon status report, 75% of our families reported a reduction in parenting stress since voluntarily joining our program. Our team should be extremely proud of this victory, as we know stress is one of many risk factors linked to abuse and/or neglect.”

• CASA of Douglas County -The Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Douglas County program is a private, non-profit agency founded in 1993 by local attorneys, the Juvenile Court Judge and local youth service providers. When a child enters the foster care system because his or her home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help. That volunteer is called a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA. CASA volunteers are screened, highly trained and serve as the “eyes and ears” for the judge in child welfare cases, to represent and advocate for a child’s best interests in the child protection system.

Executive Director Richelle Bryant: “Court Appointed Special Advocates stand up for abused and neglected children as they travel through the Juvenile Court system. In an overburdened system, these children risk slipping through the cracks, resulting in more abuse or neglect. A CASA is a highly-trained advocate that serves as a fact-finder and makes recommendations as to what is in the best interest of a foster child. Essentially, an advocate is the voice for the child in the court system, who works to move the child as quickly and effectively as possible through the system and into a safe, permanent home.”

• The Family Development Center — A private nonprofit agency providing support and education services to families experiencing high stress.

Executive Director Charlene Stutes: “Family Development Center serves 350 young children every year, working in partnership with each family – the children and adults – by providing trauma informed services designed to heal the past and prevent further occurrences of abuse and neglect. Our therapeutic early childhood program specializes in social and emotional growth and development, while also incorporating all early childhood domains to build healthy brain architecture and resilience, prepare for school readiness, and ultimately create successful adults. Our goal is to keep children safe, strengthen each family and support caregivers as they learn to build a healthy, responsive relationship, master new parenting skills, techniques, and demonstrate accountability.”

• Battered Persons Advocacy – A private nonprofit agency focused on creating a community free of family violence, sexual assault and stalking through empowerment, support and education, serving the community since 1978. BPA provides services for families including safety planning, assistance filing for protective orders, emergency shelter/transitional housing, support groups, and much more. It is the only victim services agency dedicated to providing 24/7 response to residents of Douglas County, Oregon.

Executive Director Melanie Prummer: “Douglas County has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest per-capita rate of domestic violence and domestic violence homicide in Oregon (according to the U.S. Census, ACS Survey 2010-14; five year profiles). Last year, BPA had seen an increase in access to services but the most significant concern has been the documented “high lethality” in each case. And 71% of clients with dependent children (427 children) had a Danger Assessment score in the “Extreme Danger” category. The findings show that children who are exposed to violence in the home may suffer a range of severe and lasting effects. Children who grow up in a violent home are more likely to be victims of child abuse.”

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Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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