Hopefully you’ve seen them around — blue and silver pinwheels blowing in the breeze throughout the state. Maybe on the Long Bridge in Sandpoint or by the columns on the hilltop at Idaho State University. Maybe you participated in a march with some kids at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls or a rally on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse. Maybe you stumbled upon some all over Lewiston or on the Nez Perce Reservation in Lapwai. Perhaps you had a bouquet in your office or saw some in a shop window or display case on Boise’s 8th Street. Maybe you heard a proclamation from the president or the governor or one of several mayors throughout Idaho.
Wherever you may have seen a pinwheel this spring, I hope you knew that it was a symbol for prevention of child abuse and neglect. The pinwheel reflects our aspiration that all children have a happy, healthy childhood, free from abuse and not deprived of love or basic needs.
Like all symbols, though, it’s what’s behind the pinwheel that really matters. On that score we have a lot to celebrate throughout Idaho.
▪ Nearly 10,000 people have been trained statewide on how they can prevent child sexual abuse through learning five steps taught through the Stewards of Children curriculum.
▪ Hospitals and community programs throughout Idaho are using a new tool called the Crying Plan to prevent cases of shaken baby syndrome and to help parents cope with the stress caused by crying babies.
▪ Parents, educators and early childhood providers are learning how they can strengthen their own family and the ones they work with by building resiliency and healthy social connections and by learning about parenting and child development. Families that have these protective factors are far less likely to abuse their children or the children in their care.
▪ The public health districts throughout the state, Early Head Start, Family Advocates in Boise and ICARE in Coeur d’Alene provide parenting assistance to families through home visits.
All of these efforts have led to a reduction in child abuse and neglect over the past 20 years. Our awareness of abuse and neglect and the impacts it has on developing brains has changed social norms. It is no longer acceptable for parents to mete out harsh physical punishment. We know more about sexual abuse of children and we have become active bystanders to break it up before it occurs.
While we are far from done, we know a lot about what we need to do to prevent child abuse. This is a good time to reflect on what we have accomplished as a society and think about what each of our roles can be going forward. Can we hold our friend’s crying baby and give her a break? Can we commit to noticing violations of children’s personal boundaries and stop it? Can we compliment parents when we see them doing something right? These are small steps but they add up to strengthening our families and communities and to creating an environment where all children can thrive.
And you thought it was just a pinwheel.
Roger Sherman is the executive director of the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, which is the Idaho affiliate of Prevent Child Abuse America.