Each of the 600 pinwheels represented a child born in Gordon County the previous year, a child that could be saved through child abuse prevention. The pinwheels have become an annual tradition in Gordon County as part of April Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Carol Vedrody director of the Family Resource Center/Prevent Child Abuse Gordon County was among those placing pinwheels on Thursday, earlier in the afternoon Vedrody spoke at the April interagency meeting, a monthly gathering of representatives from local school and non-profit groups that work to better Gordon County.
“We are concerned about where abuse begins,” said Vedrody.
Vedrody said child abuse begins long before the child is born; it begins when the parents are children and behaviors are instilled at an age when a child is most vulnerable.
If a child is exposed to recurrent physical or emotional abuse or contact sexual abuse, those behaviors could be learned and repeated later in life.
“Children who are abused are more likely to engage in risky behavior,” Vedrody said.
For example, she said, abused children are more likely to use drugs, abuse alcohol, smoke or have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
Vedrody pointed out that family environments have deteriorated in the U.S. and worldwide over the past 40 years.
“Parents are, now more than ever, are stressed and less able to deal with the need of young children,” she said.
Vedrody said the key to prevention is getting to the families before the stresses of parenthood become too much.
“We need to be changing the way we do things, we need to be looking at families earlier,” she said.
One of the programs to reach families before the tipping point is through early interventions such as First Steps. This program greets new mothers in Gordon Hospital before they return home with their newborns. The program provides mothers with information on how to deal with the stress surrounding a newborn and provides them with information on where to go with needs.
Another program is Healthy Families. This program sends a counselor to the home each week to teach parents how to interact with their child, discipline effectively and set boundaries. Healthy Families is an intensive program that works with the family before the baby is three months old.
The curriculum “Growing Great Kids” deals with everything from brain and emotional development to how to play with children.
“A lot of these people don’t have families to turn to, they don’t know how to be parents,” Vedrody said.
There is also a program for grandparents who are raising grandchildren.
For more information on the Family Resource Center 706-625-3311.