Pinwheels for child abuse, neglect

ALPENA – The Alpena/Presque Isle Child Abuse and Neglect Team, along with several members of the community, planted a pinwheel garden in front of the county courthouse annex to increase awareness of abuse in the area Tuesday.

April is the month of the Young Child and Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, and members of the CA/N team organized the event to foster unity and inspire action to those who have taken on the task of fighting against abuse and neglect, and to give the community information on the issue from a local standpoint.

Probate and Family Court Judge Thomas LaCross spoke at the event and emphasized the importance of awareness and action to decrease the number of child abuse and neglect incidents in the community.

“The numbers for Alpena, Alcona and Montmorency County from 2013 of investigated cases is 495,” LaCross said. “The numbers do not reflect all the reports, only the cases that are investigated.”

In the first quarter of 2014, there were 125 reported cases of abuse and neglect within the area, LaCross said.

“The goal of this event is to acknowledge the people who are fighting in response to abuse and neglect cases, and raise awareness about the sheer volume of abuse and neglect cases in the community,” LaCross said. “We have to feel something when a child is abused or neglected. We have to be moved by it. Our hearts have to break. We have to respond and do something about it. No child should be abused or neglected anywhere.”

LaCross commended the actions of the late Michelle Burns and her husband, Wayne, who fostered over 300 children and changed the lives of countless others, and highlighted the care that Fred and Bronwyn Woolman provided in the 32 years they furnished loving foster care to over 60 children.

He also stressed the importance of citizen awareness that abuse and neglect continues to happen, and the need for people to report suspicious behavior in good faith.

“We have to try and lessen the problem as much as we can,” he said. “Report suspected abuse or neglect. If it’s not reported, they could be condeming that child to the possibility of further abuse.”

CA/N team Vice President Lee Fitzpatrick said the event is in conjunction with a statewide initiative to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect in the state sponsored by the Children’s Trust Fund.

“Abuse and neglect on a child is a tragedy,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is a high cost for every child involved, and it doesn’t even come to light in most cases.”

Fitzpatrick urged people to get involved with the CA/N team and said anyone can attend its meetings the third Tuesday of every month at the Department of Human Services at 8 a.m.

“We try to also bring awareness to the programs available for support,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s one of the reasons why we visited the baby pantry during our walk to increase awareness. We wanted to shed some light on what is available to those who need the help. The worst stress comes without support.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.