DENVER — Starting Tuesday, people around Colorado might begin seeing blue pinwheels pop up in random places. They are part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about child abuse because April is child abuse prevention month.
“When people see the pinwheels all around the communities we want them to think about the children and families in the community,” said Jade Woodard, the executive director of Illuminate Colorado.
The goal is to not only start a conversation about child abuse and prevention but also to encourage Coloradans to be better neighbors to one another.
“We really are all in this together and what you see in the news are the cases of what happens when things go wrong and child protective services needs to get involved with families,” said Kendra Dunn, Child Maltreatment Prevention Director at the Colorado Department of Human Services. “But to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place, community members, neighbors, spiritual leaders and mentors can really get involved in supporting families so that things never get that bad.”
The groups involved are also hosting a photo contest for the pinwheels. People are encouraged to start a pinwheel garden in their yards, at work, etc. and to take a picture of it.
“Take a photo and upload it on co4kids.org. We will post it on social media and will tag you in it and then you will promote it as much as you can to get as many likes as you can. The photos with the most likes will actually win a grant to the nonprofit of their choice working to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect,” Woodard said.
Woodard encouraged people to make the photos as unique as possible.
“It could be on top of a mountain or at the Rockies game, at your school or just with your adorable little baby,” she said.
While the photo contest is fun, the message behind the pinwheels and Tuesday’s press conference was serious.
The organizers are encouraging people to call 1-844-CO4KIDS if you are worried that a child you know is being abused or neglected.
“You dial the number and we will make a call. You don’t have to know for certain, you don’t have to make a judgment. We do have trained professionals that can do that and so we just really want you to know that if you have a concern you should pick up the phone and call and then often that leads to families getting services that they need,” Dunn said.
Dunn wanted to emphasize that making a call doesn’t always lead to a worst-case-scenario where children are taken away from parents. It can also connect families with different resources available in the community.
This year, the emphasis is on promoting happy, healthy families.
“We really feel like it’s adults' responsibility to protect children, not children’s responsibility to protect themselves. So it’s really important that adults use their vote, their voice and then really their ability to help wrap around children and families to make sure the kids are growing up healthy and happy in Colorado,” Dunn said.
For those children who do feel abused and neglected, Woodard wants them to know that they are not alone and that there are ways they too can reach out.
“Find a teacher or an adult or an aunt or an uncle or a parent or whoever it is that they trust and they feel safe with to really try to share their experience with and know that there are adults all over the state that are really working for them,” Woodard said.
Children who want someone to talk to can also call the Safe to Tell program at 1-877-542-7233 or online at https://safe2tell.org.