April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Normally, the Prince William County Department of Social Services would host several events to spread the word, including inviting the public to plant a pinwheel garden in front of the McCoart Building. This year, it was just our Department of Social Services staff filling this area with the whimsical but poignant display.
“We felt it was still important to display a pinwheel garden to serve as a visual reminder that all children deserve a healthy, happy, and carefree childhood, free from abuse and neglect,” said Theresa Wilson, a human services program manager with the Department of Social Services.
Wilson said that the job loss and uncertain finances brought about by COVID19, along with children being home from school, put additional pressure on already vulnerable children and families. “This is the perfect time for our community to get more involved, even in a socially distant way, by keeping our eyes and ears open and being aware of what’s going on in the community,” said Wilson.
Community involvement could mean staying connected to families and neighbors who might be in need, Wilson said: “If you are able, offer to go grocery shopping for someone or tell them about resources in our community that can help them. We know that parenting is tough, so reaching out to parents who might feel lonely or overwhelmed can help them better deal with stress.”
Wilson also said that parents should try to take time for themselves. “It’s OK for parents to take a break sometimes and do something fun or relaxing for themselves. Parents should let themselves off the hook a little bit and remember to be kind to themselves,” she said.
People who know of child abuse or neglect should call the 24-hour Virginia Child Abuse hotline at 800-552-7096. “Protective Services is still working to protect children and families and is continuing to receive calls, conduct investigations and provide services,” said Wilson.
The Department of Social Services also has resources that can help families. Find out more about those resources by visiting the county website at pwcgov.org/dss. Families can also call 211 or visit 211virginia.org for more resources