Pinwheels highlight need: Child neglect, abuse grows locally

Published 12:12 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

LAPLACE — With more than 50 children in foster care between St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes and several more on waiting lists, child abuse and neglect is becoming more prevalent in local communities, according to Akeem Burl, Advocate Supervisor for Child Advocacy Services.

In observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Child Advocacy Services representatives, community leaders and concerned residents are planting eye-catching blue pinwheel gardens, a symbol of the happy and healthy life every child is entitled.

Shannon Brown

A crowd of approximately 50 people gathered at the Norris J. Millet Sr. Library in LaPlace Wednesday to plant pinwheels and raise awareness for child abuse prevention.

With the slogan “Plant. Protect. Prevent.” guiding the 2018 campaign, Burl hopes every spin of a pinwheel will spin change for children in foster care by inspiring community members to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.

“We encourage residents who have a heart to donate their time to serve these kids by helping them find safe and permanent homes,” Burl said.

“Child abuse is present in our community. There are children who can’t speak up for themselves, so we rely on our advocates to give them a voice.”

“Give a Voice” is a year-round campaign used by the agency and promoted throughout 10 parishes, according to Burl.

Community Outreach Director Lauren Williams has overseen several pinwheel plantings this month while working to build relationships with community partners and businesses interested in investing in services for children.

Around the region, organizations can sponsor a pinwheel garden for a minimum donation of $150. Companies and public groups receive a kit of 25-50 pinwheels, signage and collateral.

Smaller kits of 10 to 15 pinwheels, signage, collateral and BAG with a purpose are available to individuals who make a donation.

“This event is all about raising awareness of child abuse prevention and getting people involved,” Williams said. “We’re always looking for people who want to be a court appointed advocate. A lot of people don’t realize what’s going on in our communities, so this is all about awareness and recruiting people to service children.”

Burl said Court Appointed Special Advocates undergo a five-week training program to learn about court reports and how to see a child all the way through the foster system. Residents must be at least 21 to qualify.

Parish President Natalie Robottom and Councilman-At-Large Division A Larry Sorapuru were among those who participated in Pinwheels for Prevention.

As a former educator of 23 years, Robottom has been exposed to children who dearly need the support. She commends CASA representatives for leading the awareness campaign and providing for children in the community.

“It’s much needed in our parish,” Robottom said.

“The more attention we can bring to awareness of abusive situations, the better off we’ll be and the more likely we’ll be able to divert some of it from happening.”

To report signs of child abuse or neglect, contact the local Department of Children and Family Service at 985-652-2938.

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