By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The spinning pinwheels planted in the ground by giggling children tell a very different story than it appears at first glance.
“Without alarming the kids, we let them know this is something to help other children who need help,” said Susie Dunn, who brought out children from Dunn’s Kiddie Kare to plant the pinwheels in the ground.
The 873 pinwheels represent the number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted last year by Wood County Children’s Services. This year the blue and silver pinwheels bear testament along Ohio 25 where motorists will easily see them, in the front yard of Thayer Ford/Nissan, 18039 Dixie Highway, Bowling Green.
The annual display of pinwheels is part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.
The display serves as a reminder that not all children have carefree and loving lives.
“We continue to run record levels of investigations,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services.
Last year’s numbers dropped slightly from the 894 cases in 2016, but the severity of the cases continue to worsen. The pinwheels are a visual reminder that the public needs to notify authorities about child abuse and neglect.
“We depend on the community to report child abuse,” Wigent said.
In addition to the countywide pinwheel field, individual displays are once again being planted in communities to show the number of cases in each school district.
“It’s everywhere in Wood County,” said Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Protective Services.
Area schools will have displays on their campuses, with the number of pinwheels indicating the number of families in the district assisted by Wood County Children’s Services. The breakdown per district is: Bowling Green – 198; Eastwood – 45; Elmwood – 46; Lake – 55; North Baltimore – 75; Northwood – 72; Otsego – 54; Perrysburg – 146; and Rossford – 90.
The pinwheels will be on display throughout the month of April.
Some of the continuing high numbers seen in abuse and neglect cases may be due to public education efforts, Carsey said.
“I think people are more aware now to call us,” she said.
Another reason may be increases in drug abuse.
“The reports are very serious that we’re getting,” Carsey said. “We have parents overdosing in front of their children. It’s everywhere.”
Carsey noted the recent creation of the Addiction Response Collaborative through the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The program responds to opiate overdose cases.
“We’re hoping that will help stem the tide,” Carsey said.
Last year’s investigation numbers included the following cases: physical abuse, 250; sexual abuse, 136; neglect 392; emotional abuse, 25; dependent, 16; families in need of services, 54; and other, 21. Drugs were involved in 209 cases; 97 involved opiates.