Deena C. Bouknight, Contributing Writer
Lots of sparkling blue pinwheels have cropped up throughout the town of Franklin and in areas of Macon County. They were placed there by KIDS Place, a local member of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Annually and nationally, child abuse reports involve an average of 7.9 million children, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, a national non-profit centered on improving the lives of children in the United States. And, although an up-to-date report regarding abuse cases in Macon County is currently not available, National Institutes of Health published a report last September focusing on child maltreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating: “… the disruption and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic presents significant risk for increased family violence, including child abuse.”
Franklin-based KIDS Place, which for 30 years has been providing services for local children, youth, and teenage victims of abuse – as well as their families – places the pinwheels in visible areas to remind people that “everyone deserves a childhood with carefree moments and hope for a bright and happy tomorrow,” explained Alisa Ashe, executive director. “Sadly, some children learn first-hand what it means to be abused before they ever have a chance to learn to read and write. For some children the nightmares don’t end when the sun rises. These are our children and we must care for them.”
Pinwheels for Prevention is a nationwide campaign that was created by Prevent Child Abuse America. The goal, pointed out Ashe, is to motivate people to seek actions that will help reduce stress for families and increase healthy, safe options for children.
“When you reach out to someone being bullied, volunteer at a local child-serving agency, or donate to programs that help children and families, you’re doing something extraordinary,” she said.
Approximately 47 “host” sites around Macon County have allowed close to 1,500 pinwheels to be displayed. “When you see these pinwheels, please take a moment to say thank you to the host site for taking part in this year’s campaign, and remember the children, youth, and families who are impacted by abuse,” said Ashe.
She shared that while abuse does not directly affect all people, the implications do.
“Child abuse and neglect cost taxpayers billions annually in direct costs for child protective services, foster care services, hospitalizations, mental health treatment, and law enforcement intervention.
“The majority of child abuse cases stem from situations and conditions that are entirely preventable in an engaged and supportive community,” said Ashe.
Services offered by KIDS Place include victim’s advocacy, case coordination, child forensic interviews, child medical evaluations, and trauma-focused treatment. There is even sexual abuse training through the Darkness to Light program. KIDS Place also provides, on its website, a list of abuse signs – for anyone concerned about possible abuse – as well as ways the community can help support the organization’s efforts.
“KIDS Place needs everyone to come alongside us as we provide hope and healing for child victims of abuse,” said Ashe, noting several ways community members can become proactive:
– “If you see something, say something! If you suspect a child is being harmed, NC law requires you to make a report to DSS and law enforcement.
– Be a support to families.
– Donate!! We can use donations of paper towels, toilet paper, Kleenex, juice boxes, individually wrapped snacks, and small bottles of water.
– And, we can always use monetary donations. We are facing a 67% cut in our base grant funding in the next fiscal year. This is at a time when the number of new cases is increasing. This is also when we are also trying to raise funds to build a new facility. If we have learned anything this past year, it is that we need more space! We have purchased property and raised a little more than $200,000 for this purpose. But we need to raise about a million dollars to complete the project.”
“KIDS Place is a private, nonprofit agency recognized by the IRS as a 501c3 agency. That means that donations are tax deductible to the extent the law allows. We accept donations through the mail at P.O. Box 693, Franklin NC 28744 or online through our website – www.kidsplacecac.org via PayPal. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is a mail-out campaign – our Imaginary Birthday Party. We mailed that in November/December. At this time there are no fundraising events planned. We will watch and see how things go with COVID-19 cases and re-evaluate. KIDS Place also raises money through public and private grant.”