Several residents came to the Marion County Courthouse on Thursday to recognize child abuse.
As Marion County Commission President Butch Tennant read a proclamation declaring April 10 Children’s Memorial Day, blue pinwheels spun in the hands of about 50 people and the Children’s Memorial Flag was raised.
“Too many of Marion County’s children have been lost in violent, preventable deaths through guns, fire, automobile accidents, physical violence and suicide,” Tennant said as he read the proclamation.
Kimberly Berry-Baker, executive director of CASA of Marion County, said the Child Welfare League of America designated the pinwheel as the national symbol of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
On Thursday, CASA along with collaborating agencies held the event in remembrance of the thousands of children killed by violent means. Baker said this is the 16th year of the ceremonial flag raising.
“This is absolutely the biggest crowd we’ve had,” she said. “It just shows you how much the people in our community are dedicated to the well-being of our children.”
Every year the flag has been raised, Baker said it shows that the community cares.
“We care about our children,” she said.
The Children’s Memorial Flag depicts six children, five of which are shaded in blue and one in red. Baker said the red child, which is in the middle of the flag, is a symbol of a child who has died from violent means.
“It’s a reminder to all of us that we need to be looking out for all of our kids,” she said.
The flag will remain in front of the courthouse throughout the month of April.
Baker said they incorporated the flag raising with their Child Watch Visitation Tour.
“The tour is where we take Marion County citizens on a tour of the county through the eyes of an abused or neglected child,” she said. “Sometimes it can be a very confusing system.”
One of the stops on the tour was inside the courthouse in a courtroom. Baker said this stop was one of the more emotional ones on the tour.
“Seeing a courtroom and imagining a child there and the judge making a decision — that’s what really hit home for them,” she said.
Marion Circuit Judge Michael Aloi said having people experience what happens to a child when they are put through the system helps the individuals on the tour learn. Aloi said agencies like CASA are important to the process a child has to go through.
As a judge, Aloi deals with cases involving children. He said from his point he needs to know every detail of each case.
“What I think that CASA brings to the table is that a CASA volunteer deals with one child,” Aloi said. “They follow that child from beginning to end, and that’s extremely important because many children don’t have that consistency.”
Aloi said awareness of child abuse and neglect is important because it tells people that violence does occur with children. He said because cases involving child abuse or neglect are mostly confidental, not a lot of people are aware of how many cases there are.
“The public doesn’t know about them, and they shouldn’t know, so in many ways it’s hidden,” Aloi said. “I think it is important that the public does become aware of it in a very general way.”
Baker said she thought Thursday’s tour was successful, and she said even students from Fairmont State University attended this year’s tour.
Email Emily Gallagher at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.