Local residents remember victims of child abuse

PARKERSBURG – About 150 people gathered around the flagpole at the Parkersburg Municipal Building Friday for the annual flying of the Child Abuse Awareness flag and a balloon release in memory of children who lost their lives to neglect or abuse.

The memorial is held each year in each county in West Virginia, said Laurea Ellis, social services coordinator with the Wood County Office of the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources.

“On the fourth Friday in April of every year, in every county in West Virginia, we take time to recognize children who are lost due to abuse or neglect throughout the year,” she said.

The flag, which flew throughout the day below the U.S. flag and the West Virginia state flag, was designed by a child, Ellis said. It features a row of children in blue, with one empty place in the row to symbolize the loss of children who have died by acts of violence, preventable accidents and child abuse and neglect.

“Wood County DHHR received 1,801 referrals – which are calls from people concerned about children we investigate- in 2012. There were 14 child deaths in Wood County last year, 10 of those were preventable, which means something could have been done to help that child,” Ellis said.

The program included a proclamation from Mayor Bob Newell presented by Police Chief Joe Martin, the history of child abuse legislation and the Child Abuse Awareness Flag by Vienna Councilman Jim Miracle, a moment of silence and a balloon release.

Ellis said white balloons were released in memory of children who died in the last year. Green balloons were released in honor of a DHHR social worker, Erin Greathouse, who died in April from medical complications to honor her commitment to children’s programs through the agency where she worked.

Friday’s program also included recognition of several people in the community who have been helpful with child abuse programs and issues, Ellis said. In addition to Greathouse, those recognized were local attorney Brad Frum, Parkersburg police officers Chris Morehead and Scott Carpenter, and Ann Pifer, founder of a local program called Kids First, which is a child exchange and monitored visitation program.

In addition to the balloon release and program in front of the municipal building, Ellis said several agencies and programs that work with children and families had displays set up inside the building for two hours Friday afternoon to show what they had to offer.

“The goal of this is to bring awareness to child abuse and increase the community’s knowledge and that we all have a part and a role to play,” Ellis said of Friday’s program.