Advocacy center marks Child Abuse Prevention Month with workshops, training

  • Pinwheels, each representing an abused child, fill the front lawn of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin off of Wisdom Way in Greenfield. The display was put up for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Pinwheels, each representing an abused child, fill the front lawn of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin off of Wisdom Way in Greenfield. The display was put up for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2021 5:44:27 PM

GREENFIELD — Irene Woods, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin, says April is the perfect time for people to become more aware of child abuse and find ways to end it as it is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“Adults are naturally supposed to protect children,” Woods said. “People should be aware of the warning signs of child abuse.”

She said if people see something “suspicious,” they should file a report with the state Department of Children and Families at bit.ly/3siexZ4.

“The department has people who are trained to handle all different situations,” she said.

The Children’s Advocacy Center serves sexually abused children and their families. The agency runs on federal and state funding and grants, and also accepts donations, according to Woods.

The model the agency uses involves law enforcement and child protective services acting first to make sure a child is safe from an abuser. The child is then brought to the center on Wisdom Way, where the joint investigation and interview begins. Once the case has been reviewed, decisions are made about how to proceed, including whether the case is presented to the district attorney for prosecution. A suspect is either charged or the case is refused.

The Greenfield center was closed for several months after the pandemic hit the area, but has since reopened and is seeing children and their families in person.

“We’ve put our pinwheels back on the front lawn in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month,” Woods said. “Each pinwheel represents a child who received service from us last year.”

Woods said reports of sexual or physical abuse were down last year, but that might not be such good news, because children weren’t in school or day care, so others didn’t see the signs like they typically do.

“We’ve been busier so far this year,” she said. “There’s actually been more physical abuse, probably because parents are stressed during the pandemic. They’ve had financial troubles and had to be teachers. It’s a lot, and there have been no outlets to release the stress.”

Woods said now that schools have reopened, that stress might subside a little.

The Children’s Advocacy Center is also planning “Protect Young Eyes” workshops about internet safety for parents, teachers and children at Athol High School and Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland. Woods said children have been on their computers more during the pandemic and, therefore, have been contacted by people they don’t know.

“Children are commercially exploited,” she said. “We have to prevent that from happening. We want to educate everyone on the subject.”

Woods said people can also find mandated reporter training that anyone can take on the Children’s Advocacy Center’s website.

“Everyone should know what to look for,” she said.

For more information about the Children’s Advocacy Center, National Child Abuse Prevention Month or events, visit cacfranklinnq.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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