Author’s note: This article contains descriptions of physical violence against children and may be upsetting to some readers. ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL – (April 15, 2022) The Rock Island Arsenal Army Community Service's Family Advocacy Program conducted a wreath dedication ceremony on April 15 to bring attention and awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month. The ceremony not only featured a large blue and white wreath, but also a small "garden" of pinwheels, a keynote speech from the garrison commander and the signing of a large blue "awareness rock" dedicated in October 2018.
Col. Todd Allison, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison Rock Island Arsenal, addressed the subject of child abuse and the challenges facing leadership and society in increasing awareness about such a difficult subject.
"Coming out of COVID, we're seeing in the last two years that society had more stress on them than ever before and, unfortunately, that stress probably manifests itself in complicated situations," said Allison. "Child abuse is not happening just because people are abusing. It's happening because there are other stressors in their lives. We can take action when we see something that's not right and, a lot of times, when we go back and look at all these cases -whether it’s child abuse or some other form of abuse, there was always science. It's training our minds to be aware of being engaged with our workforce so that we can then bring the services to bear to help prevent it. Today is also about making a stand and refreshing ourselves to say that we can end child abuse."
Jenny Kerr, ACS Family Advocacy Program manager, explained why Child Abuse Prevention Month is associated with the color blue, and why pinwheels are often seen in front of facilities marking the observance.
"You notice everything is blue," said Kerr. "That's the color of child abuse prevention that actually started in 1989 with grandmother who lost her grandson as a victim of child abuse. He was beaten to death by her daughter's boyfriend. He was shoved into a toolbox and put in a canal, and she did not want to see this happen to any other kids. So, she tied a blue ribbon to the antenna on her vehicle as a reminder, and she chose blue because of all of the bruises that covered his body. In the 2000s, they changed it a little bit to bring in the pinwheels, and that's to look at the other side - the hope the joy that a pinwheel brings the kids."
Kerr said she remembered attending a recent MWR event where pinwheels were handed out.
"The smile for these little kids just to get pinwheels and run around and blowing on them," said Kerr. "That's what we want to see in the kids. That's what we want for their childhood, that joy. "
Among the pinwheels and the awareness rock was a sign reading, "Every child deserves a childhood. Shining in the sun, the pinwheels on display represent a bright future for our children and our community. The pinwheel is a symbol of childhood, a time that should be filled with joy, nurturing and playfulness. Pinwheels remind us that child abuse is preventable and that every child deserves a happy childhood. We affirm our commitment to great childhoods and safe, loving, supportive environments for children - at home, in school and in our community."
Kerr also talked about the wreath, which is new this year to ACS' effort to increase awareness surrounding Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"This is about preventing child abuse – it's really all of ACS working together to support those families," said Kerr. “It was made by military spouses together at our monthly active duty spouse night. All of the programs at ACS are here to help strengthen families, help make their time in the military successful, and help that resiliency."
Through the month of April, Family Advocacy has been sharing information and resources for parents and families to bring awareness to this issue. Follow the RIA ACS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RIAACS for announcements on events and activities.
Every child deserves to feel safe. If you're worried about the well-being of a military child, or suspect child abuse or neglect, you can turn to the Family Advocacy Program or your local child welfare agency, your state's child abuse reporting line or the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-Child (422-4453). A comprehensive list of child welfare agencies for each state can be found at ChildWelfare.gov. Call 911 or military law enforcement if you witness abuse or neglect or suspect a child is in imminent danger.