Child abuse and neglect is a topic on the minds of leaders in James City County and Williamsburg as the start of National Child Abuse Prevention month begins in April.
“At the end of the day it’s important to realize we all play a role in the healthy development of children,” said Rebecca Vinroot, director of social services for James City County. “It’s a community effort to raise healthier and happier children.”
The two localities are working together to offer the community a resource of information on the topic with the 23nd Annual Candlelight Vigil from the Child Abuse Prevention Coalition of Greater Williamsburg.
The coalition is comprised of members from various committees and departments in both localities, including the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Community Action Agency.
Members from those departments will present various tips to help raise awareness for child abuse and neglect. There will also be vendors from Bacon Street, Safe Kids Coalition and Center for Child and Family Services to talk to families about child neglect.
“We just want people to be aware it’s not a shameful thing to say you need help when you’re raising children,” Vinroot said.
Theresa Caldwell, the chairwoman of the Petersburg Wellness Consortium, will give a talk that sheds light on the organization’s perspective in prevention, Vinroot said. Caldwell will specifically discuss the impact of trauma on health child development.
But the evening won’t be all talks and tips.
Vinroot said it is designed to be a fun night out for families, with entertainment like a dance performance. One activity that has done well in the past is the color contest for the children, during which they are asked to draw a picture about their favorite family moment.
There will also be blue ribbons given out to guests as a way to show support.
During the month of April, the localities will continue to raise awareness with pinwheel gardens at local buildings, such as the library. Pinwheels were designated a national symbol for child abuse prevention in 2008. The gardens will be accompanied by signs with outreach information for those interested.
“At the end of the day, raising children is hard,” Vinroot said. “We can’t do it alone and we all need support.”
The vigil will be March 26 from 6-7 p.m. at King of Glory Lutheran Church, 4897 Longhill Road.
Editor’s note: Parts of this story were originally published in 2019.