By Jessica Mathews /

April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month and a virtual event Wednesday afternoon kicked off an annual campaign to raise awareness but also recognize all of the work being done in the community to protect children.

“Pinwheels for Prevention” is hosted by the LACASA Center’s CAP or Child Abuse Prevention Council. Area schools, businesses and organizations are invited to get involved and plant a pinwheel garden or display pinwheel bouquets during the month of April to inspire conversations and awareness. The pinwheel was selected as it serves as a happy and carefree symbol, and a reminder that all children deserve a great childhood.

The Howell Carnegie District Library has been a longtime partner for the campaign and currently has a pinwheel garden out in front of the building, along with one in a stairwell to raise awareness for patrons where a pinwheel was planted during the event. This year’s event was held virtually and featured various guest speakers and musical performances from students at Voyager Elementary School.

Chief Assistant Livingston County Prosecutor Carolyn Henry said the last couple years have tough for everyone but inparticular for children and they’ve seen an increase in cases coming through the court system involving child victims. She stressed how fortunate everyone is to have so many amazing service agencies focused on protecting children but also providing tools to children and families for future success. Henry commended the hard work of their staff and victim advocates and teachers and counselors who go above and beyond; as well as the countless hours and dedication of local law enforcement.

LACASA’s Director of Children Services Elizabeth Stahl emphasized that too many families are impacted and coming together is critical. She noted that in Livingston County in 2021, there were 1,692 calls made of suspected parental abuse and/or neglect and there were 200 children interviewed at LACASA for sexual abuse and severe physical abuse. Stahl said how people respond to children when they disclose abuse is pivotal in moving forward. She said as a community, people need to support programs, work together to prevent abuse, support children impacted by it while creating safe places for a child to be listened to and be believed.

The event culminated with the recognition of the 2022 Champion for Children award in conjunction with Great Start Livingston. It recognizes community members who have had life-changing impact on children and this year’s honoree was Deanna Norris – who was described as “a giant in the field of protecting children in Livingston County”.

Norris is well-known for her tireless work to protect children and families in the community. It was stated Norris has spent years helping laying the foundation for work that has impacted countless children in every area of the county. She was coordinator for the CAP Council for many years and has worked tirelessly at the local and state levels when it comes to expanding abuse prevention efforts.

Norris said it felt strange to be on the other side of the award because one of her favorite things to do every year was put out the call for nominations and then read the letters and stories that came in about all of the amazing things people in the community were doing for children. She said there are a lot of very generous, kind-hearted and dedicated people in the County who devote their careers, volunteer time or donate resources to help strengthen families and really protect and support the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of kids. Norris added that there are so many Champions for Children in the community and “to be counted among them is really an honor”.

A link to the video of the event is provided.