Child abuse isn’t just a buzzword for a faraway problem — Summer Flowers sees it every week in her job as supervisor and educator for pediatrics at Wayne UNC Health Care.
“We see a lot of these children and take care of a lot of these children,” she said.
The local hospital, unfortunately, often deals with the aftermath for those on the receiving end of physical, mental and emotional abuse. The numbers locally are shocking, she said Tuesday during a ceremony in honor of April being Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Last year, 2018, there were 1,420 confirmed cases in Wayne County, so just let that sink in,” she told the crowd gathered by the flagpole. “And that’s just the confirmed cases. That’s not the ones we haven’t found yet.”
It’s a big deal to those in the profession like Flowers, which is why efforts like that of the local Child Abuse Prevention Community Team are so important. It’s about getting the word out and drawing upon the partnerships and support Wayne County is known for having.
This year the committee broadened the focus, planning four events to spotlight the need for heightened awareness and education on the subject.
On the heels of the annual proclamation ceremony, held March 27 inside City Hall, there was the flag-raising ceremony on the hospital lawn Tuesday morning.
The ceremony was brief but poignant.
It might have been a slight interruption to the day of those who took the time to attend, in stark contrast to the far-reaching impact child abuse can have on the lives of its victims.
Involving the hospital in broadcasting the message is vital, Flowers said.
“It means a lot to our team to let the community know what’s going on and what we can do to be preventative,” Flowers said. “We see (children) when it’s already caught, and what we’re concerned about are the ones that aren’t.”
Janie Jaberg, president of the hospital, also spoke about the hospital’s commitment to all residents, but particularly the youngest segment.
All children deserve the utmost respect and care, she said, extending a call to arms to community leaders and partners around the county, to “strengthen our resolve and to give our children a much brighter future.”
Among those who encircled the flagpole for the 10-minute ceremony was representation from the YMCA, Health Department, Boys and Girls Club, Communities Supporting Schools, Mental Health Association, WISH school-based health centers, law enforcement and hospital staff.
At the conclusion, the hospital police raised the child abuse prevention flag, which will fly on the grounds in front of the hospital all month, Flowers said.
The child abuse prevention flag is bright red in color and features paper doll-like children holding hands. In the center, there is a hollow outline in a different color, representing those lost to child abuse. One in six children succumbs to the plight, Flowers said.
Another symbol of the cause, blue and silver pinwheels were also distributed to those gathered for the occasion.
Flowers encouraged the crowd to take the toy home and display it in a garden or by a mailbox, as a reminder of the cause and a way to educate others when they raise questions, about the mission of preventing child abuse.
There are two remaining events coming up this month on the theme.
A free screening of the film “Resilience” will be shown April 17 at noon at the Paramount Theatre. The public is invited to the film, which spotlights the long-term medical effects child abuse can have on a person.
The closing ceremony will be a flag-raising at the YMCA, planned for April 30 at noon.