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Local officials promote Child Abuse Prevention Month

Naryah Washington, 12, a student at James Martin Middle School, plants a pinwheel in a pinwheel garden symbolizing Child Abuse Awareness Month Thursday in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.
Naryah Washington, 12, a student at James Martin Middle School, plants a pinwheel in a pinwheel garden symbolizing Child Abuse Awareness Month Thursday in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Local child welfare advocates had a straightforward reminder for the community Thursday as they marked the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

All adults share a responsibility to create a community where children and families can thrive. And if people suspect child abuse, they need to speak up and report it to authorities, said Bob Simmons, executive director of the Council for Children’s Rights.

The event was held in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. It marked the third annual campaign organized by the Mecklenburg Child Abuse Prevention Team, which is composed of representatives from government, education, nonprofit and health organizations.

In the center’s plaza area, people helped plant a blue pinwheel garden, a symbol of child abuse awareness. Those gardens will be popping up around Mecklenburg County this month.

“Shining in the sun, the pinwheel is the symbol of the bright, happy future that all children deserve,” County Manager Dena Diorio said.

Peggy Eagan, county director of the Department of Social Services, said her agency gets about 1,200 calls a month from people worried about children in the community. Another 737 children are under the care of DSS.

“That’s a lot of children,” she said.

Throughout April, members of the prevention team will work to educate the public about their responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

Participants at the event also held signs with child abuse statistics, including, “30 percent of abused children will later abuse their own children,” “More than 3 million child abuse reports are made every year,” and “45 percent of child abuse victims are younger than 5.”

The event comes the same week a high-profile child abuse case ended in Union County.

A former county child protective services supervisor, in a plea deal, admitted to her role in a case that began when an 11-year-old boy in her care was found shackled to her porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

Bell: 704-358-5696;

Twitter: @abell

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