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Child abuse prevention among Southern Baptist aims

NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptists were represented among many groups planting pinwheels in gardens across America this spring to spotlight child abuse prevention and spread awareness of the 700,000 children in the U.S. who are maltreated each year.

Accepted as symbolic of the innocent whimsy of childhood, more than 5 million pinwheels have been distributed nationally during the annual April Pinwheels for Prevention emphasis since Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) adopted the symbol in 2008.

The pinwheel garden at Calvary Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Chapmanville, W.Va., marked the church’s fourth straight year of participation, pastor John Freeman told Baptist Press.

“We just have a great burden for kids, children at our church and especially those who go through the awful experience of being abused,” Freeman said of the church that draws about 100 Sunday worshippers. “It just seems like each year it grows and grows.” Following a special service April 3, the church planted perhaps 200 pinwheels on its grounds and in flower pots inside the church, Freeman estimated.

Prayer is always a focus of the event, Freeman said.

“We certainly make a point of having a time of prayer in church when we have the Pinwheel Sunday,” he said, “to pray for just children everywhere, especially in our county. There just seems to be a lot of abuse in our county here in West Virginia.”

Rebecca Adams, a longtime social worker and Calvary Baptist Church member, encouraged the congregation to adopt the practice.

“I’ve kind of seen firsthand the need for foster parents, and I see firsthand sometimes situations that the children come from, the abuse and neglect situations in the biological homes,” said Adams, who inspects foster homes for approval as a home resource coordinator with Necco family services group in Logan County. “And here at work, we participate in Child Abuse Prevention Month every [April] and we do special events, and one of those things was the Pinwheels for Prevention Project.”

In West Virginia in 2013, 12.3 of every 1,000 children suffered maltreatment, according to the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families’ most recent statistics.

“My eyes were opened to some of the situations these kids go through,” Adams said of her work at Necco. “My eyes were kind of opened to the abuse and neglect that takes place right here in our own community, in our little area, in Logan County and the surrounding area.”

Child abuse includes all types of abuse and neglect of children under 18 by a parent, caregiver or other custodian, including ministers, coaches and teachers, and is categorized as physical, sexual, emotional or neglect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children at Calvary Baptist Church enjoy planting the pinwheels and have been appropriately educated regarding child abuse, Adams said, and the greater community has embraced the practice.

“[The children] look forward to it. They like to show that they are a part of it as well,” Adams said. “[Community members] take the initiative to put them in their own yard, or to encourage other people to do it and to try to help raise awareness about the issue that we face in our area. The pinwheel is the national symbol for child abuse prevention.”

Sunrise Children’s Services, a Kentucky Baptist supported childcare agency in Mt. Washington, Ky., helped Kentucky Advocates for Abused and Neglected Children kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month in planting thousands of blue and silver pinwheels on the state Capitol lawn in Frankfort, Ky. March 31.

Dale Suttles, Sunrise Children’s Services president, told the Western Recorder newspaper that “there is something so poignant and powerful about this event.”

It’s “a reminder of the intrinsic worth of every human being,” he said. “It’s why the work we do is so important.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has long advocated for the protection of children, adopting resolutions and offering a library of resources to help churches minister to children in safe environments.

Among resources are links to the LifeWay Christian Resources’ background checking service, the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, tools from GuideStone Financial Resources, and a pastor’s search committee handbook. The SBC website also links to resources offered by the Alabama State Board of Missions, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

SBC LIFE, the SBC journal, published the special report “Protecting Our Children: Accepting the Responsibility, Embracing the Privilege”, which offers testimonies from the abused and professionals working to protect them, Scriptural exhortation, statistics and legal help.

The SBC, set to hold its annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis, has adopted four resolutions pledging to protect children from abuse, most recently the 2013 Resolution on Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse.