With a rising number of child abuse cases in Bartholomew County, efforts to raise awareness remain a top priority.

Abuse and neglect cases in Bartholomew County have gradually been on the rise since 2012, according to the Kids Count Data Center. For 2015, the most recent year available, 247 neglect cases, 23 physical abuse cases and 39 sexual abuse cases were reported in Bartholomew County.

That’s up from 217 child neglect cases, 13 physical abuses cases and 18 sexual abuse cases in 2014 that were substantiated by the Department of Child Services, the report indicated.

To raise both awareness and money, local events tied to National Child Abuse Prevention Month, observed in April, are planned in Bartholomew County.

Following an event kickoff March 31 at Puccini’s, pinwheels will be placed at Columbus City Hall beginning at 7:15 p.m.

The pinwheels represent a carefree childhood that Family Service Inc. wishes for every child to have, said Julie Miller, executive director of the organization. Pinwheel plantings will also take place at other locations in Bartholomew County on April 3-5.

Kids on the Block, a student-produced puppet show, will also take place at area elementary schools during April. The program uses teen volunteers with a focus on topics such as healthy relationships, preventing bullying, how to keep themselves safe, and physical and sexual abuse, said Lisa Teague, Caring Parents coordinator with Family Service Inc.

The program, which is also presented at schools in Hope and Edinburgh, helps pre-kindergarten to fourth-grade students learn new information in a unique way, Teague said.

One of the awareness effort’s largest fundraisers is the Child Abuse Prevention Adult Prom, an April 22 sold-out event at The Commons.

The Adult Prom raised slightly more than $70,000 a year ago. But Miller said she hopes to bring in $80,000 this year from the formal event, which runs from 7 to 11 p.m. and has a capacity of 650 people.

Like a traditional prom, five men and five women who will vie to become prom king and queen. Winners are determined by the highest tally of votes, which cost $1 each, from people willing to donate money for child abuse prevention efforts. Information about the candidates and voting can be done by visiting the CAP Adult Prom’s website at capprom.com. Voting will be accepted online until 5 p.m. April 22, with votes also being accepted during the event.

Proceeds from the prom will also go toward Family Service’s Healthy Families program. The voluntary home-visiting program is designed to promote healthy families and children through a number of services, including child development, access to healthcare and parent education, according to the Family Service Inc. website.

The program, which serves about 300 families annually, is designated for families who have children up to age 3.

Money from the prom also goes toward the nonprofit’s Caring Parents program, which provides education to parents at Columbus Regional Health about child abuse prevention. It is designed to teach parents how to react when their children are crying excessively in order to prevent shaken baby syndrome.

Education is also provided during child-development classes at Columbus East, Columbus North and Hauser Junior-Senior High School, Teague said.

Parents are given educational material, including a copy of a book, “Caring Parents ABC: All Babies Cry,” and a DVD, “The Period of Purple Crying,” Teague said.

“Sometimes it helps in reminding them of what they can do,” she said.

Child Abuse Prevention Month activities

March 31: Child Abuse Prevention Month kick-off from 6 to 7 p.m. at Puccini’s, 318 Washington St. $5 family special includes slice of pizza, choice of salad or two breadsticks and a drink. After the meal, a pinwheel garden will be planted at Columbus City Hall beginning at 7:15 p.m.

April 3: “Bullying Prevention” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Public Library Red Room. Presentations will educate children about the impact of bullying and include topics such as the types of bullying, ways to respond, decision-making skills and what to do as a bystander.

April 20: “Discipline vs. Punishment” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Public Library Red Room. The presentation is meant to help guide parents and caregivers in identifying age-appropriate discipline techniques. It will also focus on teaching parents and caregivers how to recognize the difference between discipline and punishment while reviewing how both affect children.

April 25: Dine to Donate at Chipotle, 2260 National Road, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Customers are asked to mention Family Service Inc. so the organization can receive proceeds from patron visits.

Other programs: Kids on the Block, a student-produced puppet show, will be held April 7 at the Bartholomew County Public Library, and at Smith Elementary School during the second week of April. A performance will also be held at Cambridge Square Apartments in April. Times and dates will be announced at a later date.

Pinwheel planting schedule

March 31:

6 to 7 p.m.: Child-abuse prevention ceremony at Puccini’s Pizza, 318 Washington St. Pinwheel planting will begin at 7:15 p.m. at Columbus City Hall.

April 3:

9:30 a.m.: United Way and Family Service Inc., 1531 13th St.

10 a.m.: Hope Town Hall, 404 Jackson St., and QMIX radio station.

1 p.m.:  Prestige Printing, 1307 12th St.

2 p.m.: Flintwood Wesleyan Church, 5300 E. 25th St.

3 p.m.: Al Furlani Insurance, 1720 Central Ave.

April 4:

10 a.m.: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. administration building, 1200 Central Ave.

11 a.m.: Columbus Fire Department Station No. 1, 1101 Jackson St.

1 p.m.: WKKG, 3212 Washington St.

4 p.m.: Foundation For Youth, 405 Hope Ave.

April 5:

1 p.m.: Discover Columbus, near Interstate 65.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com