BY MICHAEL GAGNE | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN WATERBURY
PHOTOS BY JIM SHANNON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
The 100 blue-and-silver-colored pinwheels planted in front of Waterbury Youth Services on Prospect Street Wednesday afternoon serve as a colorful visual reminder of how many children locally are suspected victims of sexual and physical abuse each year.
Stacey Rubinfeld, the director of the Greater Waterbury Child Abuse Interdisciplinary Team — or CAIT — that responds to and investigates allegations of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, serious neglect and the sex trafficking of minors, said the pinwheels represent “childhood as it should be —— whimsical, happy. And that’s what we want for all children,” she said. “So this is just a reminder that every child matters and why we do the work we do — which is to think about child abuse prevention and what we can do to improve the lives of children,” Rubinfeld said. “I hope this sparks a conversation about the prevention of child abuse in our community. We need to work together in order to prevent this from happening in the numbers that it does.”
Officials representing various agencies, including local police departments, the Department of Children and Families and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, joined Rubinfeld in planting the pinwheels.
Staff, volunteers and child advocates placed 100 pinwheels on the grounds of Waterbury Youth Services on Wednesday to raise awareness and promote National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The 100 pinwheels represent the number of cases of alleged child abuse the agency reviews each year.
Referrals to CAIT, which is housed at Waterbury Youth Services, come from local police and DCF. The group works with children and families throughout the investigation of their cases, providing mental health and other services throughout the process, explained Monica Roberto, Waterbury Youth Services’ director of Fund Development. Rubinfeld said CAIT typically reviews eight to 12 suspected abuse cases each month. The group’s reviews include forensic interviews and medical examinations it conducts free of charge.
Officials urged those who suspect — even if you are unsure — that a child is being ! abused to report that suspected abuse by calling the Department of Children and Families’ Careline at 1-800842-2288.
“Remember, as a community we need to protect our children. That’s why we’re hoping to spark a conversation with the pinwheel garden — to make people more aware of the fact that it’s happening,” she said, adding early intervention and awareness “can really make a difference in the life of a child.”
Watertown Police Det. Mark Conway was among those who planted a pinwheel in recognition of the team’s effort. Conway described CAIT as “just a great organization that raises awareness — to protect as many kids as we can and prevent abuse in the future.”