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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:00 am

Protecting children is an every-day job

Mary Beth Bonaventura

Area activities

The Allen County Department of Child Services will partner with the Our Children Our Future, the Allen County System of Care and SCAN to present a pinwheel garden at the Community Celebration for Child Abuse Prevention and Resource Fair on April 27. Since 2008, the pinwheel has been a national symbol of healthy starts for all children and for child abuse and neglect prevention.

The prevention event will kick off the Resource Fair Family Fun night. Information will be distributed regarding many family-service agencies. They will discuss resources available to help prevent abuse and neglect. There will be food trucks and events for children, as well as free information for families.

The event is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Turnstone's Plassman Athletic Center, 3320 N. Clinton St.

Mary Beth Bonaventura is director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Reports of abuse and neglect have risen steadily since the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline was centralized in 2010. Last year, the hotline received 225,152 reports of alleged child abuse or neglect, compared to 202,493 reports in 2014.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, and the Indiana Department of Child Services works closely with child advocacy groups in each county to educate communities on the role we all play in protecting children from abuse and neglect. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, don't wait. There is no need to spend time debating whether what you see or hear is abuse or neglect, just make the call to 800-800-5556. There are trained child abuse and neglect family case managers to take your call and assess the information.

When DCS gets involved, our priority is ensuring child safety. If we are involved, that means a child already has been harmed by abuse or neglect. As of the end of February, there were 23,289 children in need of service. To put that number in perspective, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (where the Pacers play) has a seating capacity of just more than 18,000. That is 23,289 children too many.

This month, local DCS offices along with child advocacy groups are hosting events to provide resources to communities, in an effort to reduce the number of children who need DCS protection. Preventing child abuse and neglect is the responsibility of everyone in the community. Don't be afraid to make sure children in your community are safe.

Children are 100 percent of our future and deserve the best that communities can offer. We all have a part to play in protecting them, not just during April, but every day. To find out where prevent child abuse events are taking place in your community, visit in.gov/dcs/3486.htm.

Remember, if you see or suspect a child is in danger, don't wait. Make the call to 800-800-5556, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.