PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Almost 1,200 blue pinwheels planted around Peoria County Courthouse Plaza, each one representing a case of child abuse in Peoria County.
April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. The 14th annual HEARTS Around the Courthouse event was hosted by the Youth Services Network Panel and community partners Friday.
Jeff Gress, CEO of Crittenton Centers, said they hope to draw the community’s attention to child abuse happening in their own backyard.
“Helping people to better understand some of the challenges that families face and how many of those pending cases are in our own county, just raising awareness so that we can protect kids,” he said.
Gress said everyone has a role to play in combating child abuse.
“Everybody, no matter what you do, whether you’re a reporter for WMBD, whether you are a CAT employee, or Peoria county, or just someone sitting down in their living room, everybody has a responsibility to build a healthy community,” he said.
Kitty Yanko, education coordinator at Peoria Humane Society, an animal rescue organization, said animal cruelty is a red flag for child abuse.
“When animals are at risk, so are children,” she said. “Children, women, and animals are the defenseless in our society.
As of year-end 2020, there were 1,198 pending child abuse and neglect cases in Peoria County, according to the press release.