If you’ve recently driven through the circle driveway at Oakland Schools’ Main Campus, you have likely seen a grouping of blue pinwheels on the front lawn. It’s also possible you’ve seen these displays in other public locations throughout Oakland County. So what do they represent?
According to Chuck Ludwig, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) director at CARE House, the pinwheels are part of a national effort to focus on child abuse since April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention (CAP) Month.
Pinwheels denote the innocence of childhood and are supposed to remind us of what childhood should be: filled with hope, happiness and kindness. CARE House officials estimate that of the 273,000 children in Oakland County, one in 10 will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Founded in 1977 as the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County, CARE House is a non-profit children’s advocacy agency based in Pontiac that offers an array of programs to prevent, identify and treat child abuse victims.
Ayana Knox-Potts is a parent liaison for Great Start Collaborative-Oakland who is on the Child Abuse Prevention Committee overseen by Ludwig and is the person responsible for planting the pinwheels at Oakland Schools.
“Great Start of Oakland and Oakland Schools have been on the Child Abuse Prevention Committee for many years. We have supported child abuse prevention by providing parents with the resources they need to support healthy families,” she said. “The child abuse prevention committee will continually be supported by Oakland Schools and Great Start as we know children who learn from us today, transform tomorrow.”
To continue raising awareness of this cause, today, on April 19, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and several Oakland County departments that work to protect children, will be planting a pinwheel garden at Oakland County Circuit Court.
Last year about 100 people attended the annual planting event. The event was first held in 2014 and involves planting pinwheels in front of the Lady Justice statue on the south side of the courthouse. All county employees are encouraged to participate to show their support for CARE House, as well as the county agencies that work to protect children.
“We will have pinwheels to distribute,” Ludwig said. “People just have to show up.”
The Oakland County Health Division also works closely with CARE House and offers a variety of programs that support children and families of Oakland County such as the Nurturing Parent Program, Nurse Family Partnership, home visiting public health nurses, the Health Education Parenting Program, and public health nurses assigned to the Pathways to Potential and Children’s Village programs.
“Each program empowers parents to develop positive parenting techniques and learn about their child’s physical and social emotional growth and development,” said Andrea Agboka, Public Health Nursing supervisor.
Public Health Nurses provide support to each family and assist them in building connections with community agencies such as healthy food markets, financial literacy, quality childcare, mental health services and access to a medical home.
“Research has proven when parents provide a stable, nurturing environment children will flourish and become resilient,” said Agboka. “We are honored to work with the CARE House team each April and hope to see hundreds of pinwheels springing up in recognition of the innocence of childhood – what every child needs and deserves!”
Mary Schusterbauer, director of the Oakland County Youth Assistance (OCYA), works closely with CARE House and the Health Division. OCYA is the prevention arm of the Oakland County Circuit Court.
“We have 26 offices throughout Oakland County and our mission is to prevent delinquency, neglect and abuse,” said Schusterbauer. “Every April we are so pleased to work with our community partners to draw attention to the seriousness of child abuse. We encourage each agency, organization, and citizen to invest in a healthy and happy future for our children.”
Shelley Taub, Oakland County commissioner representing the 12th district of Bloomfield Township, is the liaison between CARE House and the commissioners for the pinwheel event and is a strong advocate for children.
“It is, and always has been, my belief that all children deserve a childhood. A time to play, a time to learn, a time to love, and be loved,” Taub said. “I mourn for the children who are so denied. That is why I am a supporter of CARE House and the Pinwheel Project. It should not hurt to be a child.”