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Spinning change for children Pinwheel gardens spread awareness for child abuse prevention

LAPLACE — In 2020, 198 volunteers with Child Advocacy Services dedicated 7,564 hours to giving voice, healing and security to children in foster care across a 10-parish region that includes St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes.

However, CASA recruiter Donna Bliss said there are still 100 children on waiting lists and in need of volunteers.

“That means there is a child coming into the system, they have received a foster placement, and the judge has said, ‘I want an advocate assigned to this child.’ We don’t have enough advocates,” Bliss said.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and 2021 marks the sixth year Child Advocacy Services is planting pinwheel gardens to raise awareness and recruit court-appointed special advocate volunteers.

Childlike and whimsical pinwheels represent a world where all children can grow up happy and healthy with the support of their families and communities. Individuals and businesses in the River Parishes can help spin change for children by purchasing blue pinwheels this month online at www.childadv.net or by visiting the LaPlace office at 2840 W. Airline Highway Suite G.

L’OBSERVATEUR is also a pick-up location for pinwheels at 116 Newspaper Drive, located behind Destiny Christian Center on Main Street in LaPlace.

Community Outreach Director Lauren Reynolds said a $5 donation covers a single pinwheel.

“It’s called Pass the Pinwheel, and the idea is to pass it to a friend to raise awareness for child abuse prevention,” Reynolds said. “It’s a CASA recruitment event as well because we always need CASA volunteers to serve.”

A $25 donation covers a personal pinwheel garden with 10 pinwheels planted at an individual’s home or business. Meanwhile, a donation of $150 includes a 25-pinwheel garden with signage. Some companies opt for a $500 donation to receive 100 pinwheels and signage.

“Last year, Child Abuse Prevention Month was kind of at the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine. This year, we definitely invite businesses, individuals and anyone who wants to get involved to plant pinwheels. The most important thing is to get the pinwheels out into the community and get that visibility,” Reynolds said.

Bliss said CASA volunteers did a great job of meeting the needs of children while overcoming the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our staff and volunteers have transitioned to communicating with the child, where it is age appropriate, and with the caretaker virtually. They’ve done Zoom, Facetime, phone calls with their kids. We’ve had volunteers put together little kits and boxes of projects so they can still interact with their child,” Bliss said. “The most wonderful thing about the CASA volunteers is, because they are so drawn by their passion to advocate for children, they get really creative. It means so much when they find ways to connect with that child.”

Many CASA volunteers maintain a full-time job while dedicating five to six hours a month to serving their child. Bliss said no special certifications are required; a CASA volunteer only needs training and the desire to be a voice for a child who cannot speak for themselves in the court system.

There will be a virtual, 30-minute Lunch ‘N’ Learn offered at noon on April 16 to explain the steps to becoming a CASA volunteer.

Child abuse prevention trainings are offered regularly at www.childadv.net, and information about these trainings are shared to the Child Advocacy Services Facebook page.
According to Reynolds, there will be a two-hour virtual training starting at 4 p.m. April 22 that includes the voices of child sexual abuse survivors, parents of survivors and professionals in the field. It will teach adults how to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse, how to react in a responsible manner and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

For more information, call the LaPlace office at 985-536-8384.