Living Columns & Blogs

Communities that care: Look for the Blue Ribbon Campaign next month

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In Centre County, our “village” consists of family members, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, schools, social service agencies and Children and Youth Services who all work together to keep children safe. For our village, April is a very important month.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month and Sexual Assault Awareness month. The Woman’s Resource Center, Centre County Children and Youth Services, Youth Service Bureau, the Centre County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Centre County YMCA will be sponsoring various activities throughout our community to promote prevention and raise awareness to the realities of both child abuse and sexual assault.

It is my hope that this will serve as a reminder to all that Centre County continues to work to prevent child abuse. John F. Kennedy said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”

Throughout the month of April, Centre County residents and visitors will see blue ribbons and pinwheels in various locations.

The Blue Ribbon Campaign began as a way to promote awareness of child abuse and to educate individuals on ways to prevent abuse. It is said that this tradition began with a grandmother who tied a blue ribbon on her car antenna to remind her of the bruises on her grandson who died as a result of child abuse in 2008.

Pinwheels were adopted as the new national symbol for the prevention of child abuse by Prevent Child Abuse America. The pinwheel represents the carefree childhood that all children deserve.

In Centre County, opportunities are provided monthly for community members to participate, at no cost, in a Stewards of Children training to learn the steps to protect children from sexual abuse. This evidence-based program has found that if you can reach just 5 percent of the population, this will effect change. Centre County is only one of three counties in the nation that has reached that goal. Although this goal has been achieved, trainings are still being held.

Unfortunately, child abuse remains one of those topics that people don’t want to talk about. However, in the past 5 years, approximately 150 children have died in Pennsylvania as a result of abuse and neglect. At least 70 percent of these children were younger than 5 years old.

Some children suffer from the effects of that trauma socially, emotionally and medically all of their lives. The cost of child abuse and neglect is staggering. According to a recent CDC study, the lifetime costs of all confirmed cases of abuse/neglect in one year is approximately $124 billion.

With the changes to the Child Protective Services Law in 2014, we expected that the number of referrals to Children and Youth would increase. What we did not expect was that the increase to be the result of “ordinary” citizens reporting. Clearly, our “village’s” efforts have affected Centre County’s children in a positive way.

Mary Ann Zimmerman is agency liaison for Centre County Children and Youth Services.