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Simon joins officials to fight child abuse 


Alton Telegraph
April 1, 2011
By Cynthia Ellis

EDWARDSVILLE — Pink and blue silhouettes lined the lobby of the Madison County Administration Building on Friday morning, each representing a child who allegedly was abused.

The 486 shapes symbolized the number of children interviewed for possible physical or sexual abuse in 2010 at the Madison County Child Advocacy Center, which operates offices in Wood River. Blue ribbons were wrapped around posts inside and out, as well as pinwheels "planted" around the building’s lobby.

Tarra Winters, prevention specialist with Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, welcomed dozens of individuals, which included guest speaker Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon as well as state, county and municipal elected leaders, clergy, law enforcement, attorneys, teachers, social service workers, abuse counselors and Bikers Against Child Abuse to kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month. She said community events were being sponsored all across the county as part of the national campaign, "Pinwheels for Prevention: Putting Children First."

"This is about the safety, health and well-being of our children," Winters said.

She said it takes both awareness and action of people in the community to speak out against abuse and neglect.

County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan read a proclamation declaring the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Madison County.

Dunstan said no one in Madison County would be satisfied until every one of the silhouettes was gone.

"We have to continue to work with out children to make sure they are safe and secure," Dunstan said.

Valda Haywood, assistant regional administrator with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, presented a community campaign award to the 3rd Judicial Circuit Family Violence Prevention Council for its involvement in the community in preventing abuse.

"The council consists of many committees who all work to educate and provide services to stop all forms of domestic violence," Haywood said. "The council has addressed the problem of child abuse in many ways."

The council consists of five committees: intervention, prevention and education; law enforcement; health systems; clergy or community faith; court and Bond County.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder, who is co-chair of the council, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli serves as the council’s other co-chair.

"On behalf of the entire Third Circuit and the (council), we are honored to accept this recognition from the state for the 15 years of service we have tried to eradicate family violence and violence against children," Crowder said.

Simon said she was pleased to be present at such an event. She said she attended her first child abuse prevention event was after her youngest daughter was invited to read a poem she wrote at school about child abuse.

Simon said her daughter got third place, but what was most interesting was to get a child’s perspective on preventing abuse.

"I’m also in a crowd of people that knows about violence and abuse," she said. "Everyone has their own connection, their own story about the victims they know of domestic violence."

She said communities need to make sure they advocate for human services and state funding, as well as hold fund-raisers for local shelters, along with advocating for victims of child abuse and trying to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

Simon said the state spends most of its money on education, public safety and human services. She said everyone sees the value of education and public safety.

"We would all like to think that things like child abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence happens to others," she said. "We would all like to be secure in that. The reality is it touches us in so many ways."

She said children should be able to grow up in an atmosphere where adults don’t use violence to resolve their disputes.

Other to speak about the prevention of child abuse were Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons and Capt. Brad Parsons, commander of Illinois State Police District 11 in Collinsville.

Following the news conference, guests were allowed to meander through the building lobby, which was full of displays by agencies involved in the struggle against child abuse.

Child Abuse Prevention Month is sponsored by DCFS and several not-for-profit organizations. For more than 20 years, child abuse prevention and awareness has been symbolized by the Blue Ribbon, started by a grandmother grieving for her grandchildren.

Several years ago, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the Pinwheel alongside the Blue Ribbon to bring a vision of hope to this critical issue. The Pinwheel represents efforts to change the way our nation thinks about prevention, focusing on what all families need to succeed in providing healthy, nurturing environments for children. We all play a part to help increase awareness and prevent abuse and neglect before it ever happens.