October 18, 2021

Virtual pinwheels in a time of stress

Annual event to fight abuse adapts to social distancing

Cortland County Seal

The closing of schools to stem the spread of coronavirus has increased the danger to children vulnerable to abuse who will not have contact with teachers, school staff and friends who could provide support, say organizers of a child abuse prevention fundraiser.

With that backdrop, the annual pinwheel fundraiser for the Cortland County Child Advocacy Center had to be changed to comply with the directive that people exercise social distancing.

The organization has annually placed pinwheels, purchased by donors, in public places to send a message against child abuse.

This year, the group is asking people to show their support Friday by wearing blue, displaying paper pinwheels in their window, or making chalk pinwheels on their sidewalks and posting pictures of their efforts on Facebook.

To take part

  • Download the pinwheel coloring sheet at: tinyurl.com/wu4dfgg. Let your kids color the pinwheel and then post it in a window in your home.
  • Make your own pinwheel: tinyurl.com/yxx66ppv

The project coincides this month with Child Abuse Prevention month.

Participants are asked to tag the “Friends of the Cortland County Child Advocacy Center.” The county District Attorney’s Office oversees the center’s multidisciplinary team.

People can visit the center’s website: stopchildabuseincortland.org/ to donate money or review the Wish List for items that they can donate to help children heal, such as coloring books and crayons.

Watch for this

An abused child may feel guilty, ashamed or confused — afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend.

Watch for these red flags:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities.
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance.
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self confidence.
  • An apparent lack of supervision.
  • Frequent absences from school.
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home.
  • Attempts at running away.
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior.
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide.
    — Source: The Mayo Clinic

“In the midst of this pandemic, many children in our community are in danger,” according to a news release from the Child Advocacy Center. “Without school personnel, extended family members, professional supports and friends, children in abusive households are now extremely isolated. Child abuse and exploitation has been demonstrated to increase during humanitarian crises such as natural disasters and pandemics.”

“We recognize with the social distancing efforts in the community, children are not in school, people are confined to their homes. There are certain pressures put on families,” county District Attorney Patrick Perfetti said Wednesday. “It is affected by isolation and closed quarters.”

The duration of the ongoing pandemic could put stress on families, he said.

“In a disaster, there is the event and recovery,” Perfetti said. “We are not sure how long this will go on. There is a great deal of uncertainty and this creates stress on people. It affects their livelihood.”

Cortland County Child Advocacy Center officials say they are prepared after the pandemic passes to assist with injuries, disclosures and children in need of their help.