by Ozzie Nogg
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Jewish Family Service will again join Prevent Child Abuse Nebraska’s Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign to promote healthy child development and positive parenting. “Even if abuse doesn’t affect you directly, everyone can take steps to build a more positive environment for our children,” said Teresa Drelicharz, MS and registered play therapist at Jewish Family Service. “We’ll be planting our Pinwheel Garden on the Jewish Community Center front lawn on Sunday, April 3, at 1 p.m. and invite the community to join us.”
The most recently available statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimate that in 2014, 702,000 children in the nation were victims of abuse and neglect. The majority of victims consisted of three races or ethnicities: white, 44.0%; Hispanic, 22.7%; African-American, 21.4%. The report, Child Maltreatment 2014, was published in January of 2016. “Nebraska reflects a microcosm of those numbers,” Drelicharz said. “In 2014 we had 4,137 substantiated victims, 2,546 of whom were white, 634 of whom were Hispanic, and 587 of whom were African-American. In Nebraska, 20.7% of all victims were under the age of two. And,” Drelicharz continued, “although the national and state statistics are not broken down by religion, there are plenty of news stories, articles, personal accounts, and other very reliable sources that support the notion that abuse crosses all races, religions, and socio-economic levels.”
These numbers have many of us asking, “If I knew someone who was harming a child, what would I do?” According to Karen Gustafson, Director of Jewish Family Service, “Local law gives a clear answer: In the State of Nebraska, every adult is a ‘mandatory reporter’ of child abuse. Every adult, nineteen or older, who has reason to suspect that a child is being harmed must report it to the Child Abuse Hotline or to law enforcement. All reports are confidential, and the Nebraska statutes protect the reporter from any liability. JFS is the mental health agency on the Omaha Jewish Federation campus, and we need to make sure the right information gets out to the community. In a word, each of us has a duty to report child abuse. We can’t expect youngsters to defend themselves. All of us — not just licensed therapists — need to step up as adults to protect kids. We don’t have a choice.”
The Pinwheel Gardens honor and celebrate the kids in their communities, and serve as the national symbol for child abuse prevention. “They reflect hope, health and safety which JFS wants for our children and for children everywhere,” Gustafson said. “We give a special thank you to the Pennie Z. Davis Family Life Education Fund for underwriting this program.”
The Pinwheels for Prevention Garden will bloom on the Jewish Community Center front lawn through the end of April. For more information, call Teresa Drelicharz at 402.330.2024.
If you suspect a child is being abused, please speak to the proper authorities. Call Law Enforcement at 911, or The Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.652.1999 in Nebraska, and 1.800.362.2178 in Iowa. Additional community resources are available through Jewish Family Service at 402.330.2024.