National Child Abuse Prevention Month, represented by blue-and-white pinwheels, is a time to recognize that all children have the right to live a healthy, happy childhood that is free of abuse and neglect and to reflect on the role each of us can play in helping them to secure that right. Each year, Prince William County marks the occasion by hosting the planting of a pinwheel garden at the Sean T. Connaughton Plaza.
“Our presence here reaffirms the fact that our community recognizes the importance of working together to make sure that every child grows up in an environment free of abuse,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Vice-Chair Margaret Angela Franklin. “We know that adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect have long-term, negative effects on the physical and mental health of individuals in childhood to adulthood.”
“The pinwheel garden represents a future that we want for our children here in Prince William County. We want to provide an environment that’s safe and stable for them,” said PWC Social Services Prevention Team Program Manager Theresa Wilson.
In 2021, there were 3,842 cases of suspected child abuse and neglect reported in Prince William County. Soon, these cases will be handled in a centralized location, with the opening of the Prince William Child Advocacy Center on April 18 in the Ferlazzo Building. The center will be staffed by two therapists, two forensic investigators, and several case managers, and will provide children with some continuity in an already stressful situation.
“These pinwheels are a reminder of the responsibility that we all share to protect the children of our community. The Child Advocacy Center, which was championed by Supervisor Franklin and which this Board included in our FY22 Budget, is a giant step forward in meeting that responsibility,” said Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye, who applauded how hard social services staff have worked to make the center operational so quickly.
Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect should call the PWC Child Protective Services/Adult Protective Services Hotline at 703-792-4200, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On weekends and holidays, call the State Child Protective Services Hotline at 1-800-552-7096. Signs of child abuse or neglect may include unusual bruising, burns, changes in sleep patterns, altered or regressive behavior or fear of people or places. Neglect can include a lack of supervision, where children are home alone at too young of an age, poor hygiene, seasonally-inappropriate clothing or not being sent to school.
Additionally, if you know of somebody struggling with parenting, consider offering your emotional support and connecting them with County resources. For instance, the Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a variety of parenting and anger management courses that could prevent a situation from escalating into abuse or neglect. Learn more by calling 703-792-6288 or by visiting https://www.pwcva.gov/department/virginia-cooperative-extension/parenting-education-programs.