Pinwheel event pushes child safety

1,291 referrals in ’20 the fewest in decades

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Lori Yedlicka, director of administrative services at Trumbull County Children Services, bends over to straighten a pinwheel in the front yard of Warren City Hall during the Pinwheels for Prevention kickoff to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month.

WARREN — Trumbull County officials investigated 1,291 referrals of child maltreatment in 2020, and each was represented with a pinwheel planted in the yard in front of Warren City Hall to increase awareness.

Anytime someone witnesses child abuse or neglect, he or she should report it to the agency, Tim Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services, stressed during Wednesday’s kickoff of the annual Pinwheels for Prevention event.

“The year 2020 had the lowest referrals of child maltreatment in the county in decades. However, the length of stay of children in care is at its highest duration since 2014. Additionally, 72 children in care meet the requirements for therapeutic placements due to the extent of their trauma and the severity of their treatment needs. The number of children requiring these services is at its highest since the peak of the opioid epidemic in 2016,” a release from the agency states.

Referrals for maltreatment decreased during the pandemic, which is worrisome to the agency because it means issues likely were going unreported. However, they have begun to increase now, Schaffner said. There is usually a dip in the summer time, too, because school officials can’t catch the signs of abuse and neglect and report it.

“For a while (referrals) were down 45 percent, and we were very concerned. So, I also want to thank the media because repeatedly you reported on that, and when you did you report on our ‘see something, say something’ (campaign), we saw an uptick in our referrals, so it really does take a village to keep kids safe,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner thanked the foster parents in the county for taking care of kids in dangerous situations when family members weren’t available.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, the foster parents took kids into their homes without worrying about possible exposure, Schaffner said.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said it “warms” his heart to see the pinwheels because they represent a collaboration of partnerships coming together to address the needs of children.

Franklin said child abuse continues to be a major problem that “destroys families and contributes to serious societal problems, including juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy.”

Victims of childhood abuse and neglect are at increased risk for smoking, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders and other issues, he said.

Schaffner said his staff of 170 performed admirably during the pandemic, with zero complaints.

“We didn’t miss a visit with families. We were in hospitals and the jail and in the streets and in homes at 2 in the morning,” he said.

The Touch of Class 4-H Club placed the pinwheels. To recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Trumbull County Courthouse and city hall will be lit with blue lights.

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a foster family can call the agency at 330-372-2010.


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