Blue pinwheels have been planted in the flower beds on the grounds of the Harford County Courthouse in downtown Bel Air, to celebrate the innocence and playfulness of childhood, but also to raise awareness of child abuse in Harford County.
The “pinwheel garden,” an initiative of CASA of Harford County, was planted during a ceremony Wednesday evening marking National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is observed in April. Similar gardens have been planted around Harford County, including other spots in Bel Air such as American Legion Post 39 on North Hickory Avenue and the Harford County Public Schools headquarters at South Hickory and Courtland Place.
“Children are precious, and it is the responsibility of the entire community to keep children safe,” Ross DiEdoardo, executive director of the Bel Air-based CASA of Harford County, said during the ceremony at the courthouse.
Volunteers with CASA – called Court Appointed Special Advocates – work with children who have become involved in the court system and suffered abuse or neglect. The volunteers conduct research and interviews regarding the child and their case and serve as advocates for the child’s best interests as they go through the court and child welfare systems, according to CASA’s website.
Anyone who cares about children and is 21 or older can volunteer with CASA. Prospective volunteers must pass background checks and complete a 30-hour training program, according to the website.
The volunteers are necessary so children “know they have a loving, caring individual with them” as they navigate the legal system, DiEdoardo said.
Representatives of other entities that work with children who have suffered abuse or neglect also took part in the ceremony, including the Harford County Department of Social Services, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the county judiciary and county government.
“Let us come together as a community to stand for our children,” said Col. William Davis, chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office.
Circuit Court Judge Diane Adkins-Tobin noted that those in the legal system who work with abused or neglected children have difficult jobs that can be “depressing,” “emotionally draining” or “sometimes thankless.”
While the challenging nature of those jobs cannot be changed, “we can, however, make sure the children obtain justice in whatever form that is, whatever form that takes,” Adkins-Tobin said.
Joe Cluster, chief of executive staff for the Harford County government, presented a proclamation on behalf of County Executive Robert Cassilly. The proclamation marked Child Abuse Prevention Month and recognized CASA for “its special efforts to raise public awareness and encourage support of the many children affected by child abuse in Harford County.”
Cluster noted that he and his wife have recently become licensed to serve as foster parents, which drew applause from the crowd. He said the county government is “on the front lines” of protecting children from abuse and that officials look forward to working with CASA in that effort.
“It is an amazing thing you guys do, and we’re looking forward to being partners with you,” he told DiEdoardo.
Visit CASA of Harford County’s website, or call 410-638-4938, for more information on volunteering or donating. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, contact the Department of Social Services at 410-836-4700.
Contact Media and Public Relations Specialist David Anderson at 410-688-3020 or email@example.com.