Pinwheels raise awareness for child abuse in Alachua County

Published: April 6th, 2009

Category: News

Silver pinwheels dot the front lawn of the North Florida Regional Medical Center. With 2,030 of them revolving constantly in the wind, the lawn is an oversized optical illusion.

As a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Family Law Society and the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force sponsored the annual Winds of Change event on Saturday at the North Florida Regional Medical Center from 1 to 3 p.m.

About 25 people placed the pinwheels on the lawn facing Newberry Avenue to spread awareness about the prevalence of child maltreatment in Alachua County.

“There is one pinwheel for each [substantiated] case of child abuse in Alachua County,” said Cynthia Winters, president of the Family Law Society. “Last year there were only 1,984 and this year there are 2,030. It is definitely a growing problem.”

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, in 2007, Alachua County had nearly 50 percent more reported cases of child abuse than the state average.

Susan Scarpa, a local foster parent and volunteer at Winds of Change, knows firsthand how damaging child abuse can be.

“I had one child who would hide and cry when it was time to see his parents,” Scarpa said. “It broke my heart.”

She said she thinks that education needs to begin with the children because many adult abusers were abused as children.

“You’ve got to start in the kindergarten and the first grade and teach them that it is not okay to hit,” Scarpa said. “Schools have to make up for what families don’t teach.”

Cathy Winfrey is a member of the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, whose purpose is to sponsor events like Winds of Change that educate people in the community about child maltreatment.

“Education is the key,” Winfrey said. “We need to educate parents about the prevention of child abuse.”

Winfrey is a member of the District 3 child abuse death review committee, where she has found that many child fatalities are the result of poor parenting, rather than purposeful abuse.

“Maybe a parent goes to answer the phone and leaves their child in the bathtub and he drowns,” she said. “Or maybe they leave him in the hot car. Many child deaths are preventable.”

The pinwheels are visible from the street, along with several large signs that explain what they represent. They will remain on the lawn for the entire month of April.

Scarpa said that the visual effect of over 2,000 pinwheels covering a lawn is extremely powerful when you remember that each spinning wheel represents a child.

“I always stop to look at them,” she said. “I really hope they make an impact.”

For more information about child abuse in Alachua County and the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, please visit