PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Center for Prevention of Abuse launched a billboard campaign in Peoria to raise awareness about childhood trauma and the long lasting effects into adulthood.

Using crime and mortality data from the Peoria City/County Health Department, CFPA targeted three zip codes in Peoria – 61603, 61604, and 61605. The data indicated those zip codes have the most community and family violence, said CFPA CEO Carol Merna.

Merna said signs of childhood trauma include change in sleeping habits, excessive crying and whining, being clingy and re-enacting trauma through artwork or play.

“We want to make sure that any childhood trauma, whether its family-based or based in the community, children are able to put words to their emotions, and that they are able to come to terms with what they’ve experienced. So that they can hopefully recover from it as they get older. Break the cycle of violence,” said Merna.

The free and confidential Safe From the Start program offered by CFPA works to prevent and reduce the impact of family and community violence through therapy and comprehensive case management for children ages 0 through 5 and their families.

“We want all children to live safe and peaceful and healthy lives, so bringing awareness to our Safe From the Start Program is a good way to do that,” said Merna.

Merna said most people don’t realize the long-term impact of childhood trauma.

“There’s subliminal messages around [the billboards] of bullying, shootings, domestic violence and other things that can affect children in horrific ways. So we want people to know that childhood trauma has implications for the rest of their lives, and we don’t want a broken childhood to break a bright future,” she said.

The billboards can be found on Jefferson St., Adams St., Western Ave., and Lincoln Ave.

Merna said they hope to add more billboards in the future.