Cathy Winfrey: Child abuse prevention must become priority

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

You may have noticed displays of blue and silver pinwheels popping up around our community this month. Communities throughout Florida and across the nation are creating similar displays as part of Pinwheels for Prevention, a national movement to change the way we approach the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Here in Gainesville, the largest pinwheel garden, with more than 1,000 pinwheels, is by the pond at North Florida Regional Medical Center. Several other agencies that serve children also have smaller pinwheel gardens in front of their agencies. As the symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention, the pinwheel is an uplifting reminder of childhood and the bright futures all children deserve.

We all know that today's children are our future leaders, parents and workers. Their well-being affects the future safety and prosperity of our entire community. Yet too many of our children continue to live in neglectful or abusive environments that are toxic to healthy brain development and lead to learning and behavioral problems and long-term physical and mental illness. If we truly want to strengthen our community and turn our economy around, prevention must become a priority for every individual.

During Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force is working with Prevent Child Abuse Florida to promote community activities and public policies that support healthy child development so that child abuse and neglect never begins. Our annual event, Celebrate the Child, will be held on April 20 from 10

a.m. until noon at the downtown library headquarters. This free, family-friendly celebration includes more than 30 local agencies and businesses offering information on healthy child development, community resources, free books for children, free food, carnival games and other activities.

We all have a role to play in ensuring every child in our community has an equal opportunity for health growth and development. You can be a part of the solution by learning about the needs of children and families in our community, speaking out on behalf of children's issues, advocating for the expansion of proven prevention programs like Healthy Families Florida, donating to charities that work to prevent child abuse and neglect, and supporting family or friends who are under stress.

To learn about healthy child development and more ways you can help prevent child abuse and neglect in your community, visit the Pinwheels for Prevention page at Together we can build a bright and prosperous future for Florida — one child at a time.

Cathy Winfrey is program manager of Healthy Families Alachua and chair of the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force.

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