We all play a role in keeping kids safe

This week, students, activists and those on the front lines of combatting child abuse and neglect are planting “pinwheel gardens” at conspicuous places all around the state in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, which happens every April.

Such a garden was planted outside the Alcona County Courthouse on Monday, and another will be planted outside Ella White Elementary School in Alpena at 2 p.m. Friday.

It is a serious issue across Michigan and across America, and Northeast Michigan is not immune: Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book showed there were 101 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Alpena County in 2017, 34 confirmed cases in Montmorency County, 54 cases in Presque Isle County and 35 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Alcona County.

It’s a problem that affects us all, not only because none of us want to see any kids come to harm. Kids removed from unsafe homes are placed in foster care and cared for at taxpayer expense, and the trauma associated with that means many foster children often find themselves in many of the same problems their parents were in, including poverty and substance abuse.

We all can play a role in keeping kids safe by helping our neighbors, volunteering with organizations that serve families, and, most importantly, by alerting authorities when we suspect kids are at risk.