Pinwheels spin against child abuse

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr At the placement of pinwheels on the Marshall County Courthouse lawn are, from left, Felicia Shelby, Kim Young and Heather Warden.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Pinwheels, those happy and seemingly carefree childhood toys, were posted on the east lawn of the Marshall County Courthouse on Monday with each of the 104 toys representing a child who suffered severe physical or sexual abuse in this county during the most recent reporting year.

Statistically, four and a half children die of abuse every day in America and that number is high when compared to the death rate from abuse in other industrialized nations, according to Heather Warden, director of Junior's House Child Advocacy Center. Headquartered in Fayetteville, the service has an office here at 906 Second Ave. North.

"It's a good thing that they've got a Junior's House office here because before they'd have to go to Fayetteville," said Kim Young, chairman of the Community Advisory Board for Marshall County that helps coordinate services for children ad their families.

Warden said, "Children are our most precious resource. They need a voice and direction. Junior's House does that."

When law enforcement officers must investigate a child abuse case, employees at Junior's House assemble a team to coordinate the inquiry in a child-friendly environment so that the child can tell his or her story once while being videotape recorded, Warden said. That way the child faces only one interview instead of several, or one for each agency that must become involved under state law.

Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett reports that during the most recent reporting year there were 1,500 cases of child abuse in the 17th Judicial District of Marshall, Bedford, Lincoln and Moore counties.

Warden said a third of those cases, or 500, were deemed severe.

Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods praised the service provided by Junior's House and recalled a day when she was principal at Lewisburg Middle School before Junior's House had an office here.

"The saddest thing I had to deal with was child abuse," Woods said. "We had nobody to respond [from the school system or other designated agency] and the only person who finally came was the nurse who worked at the Marshall County Health Department."

The youngster who needed help could not stay awake, she said. "He'd been drugged by somebody."

Nationally, approximately one of every four girls are abused and one of every six boys are abused.

Blue pinwheel "gardens are being planted statewide," Warden said. It's to raise awareness about the problem and to encourage people to take an interest and not ignore the issue.