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Preventing child abuse before it happens

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. One organization in central New York that works on preventing child abuse will kick off activities with a new director.

Linda Cleary is taking the reigns of the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse this spring, and she says her goal is to prevent more abuse of children before it begins.  

"The best way to do that is to really get prevention services out in the community and that includes in some cases, home visitation programs, it includes parenting education, it means getting information in the schools," said Cleary. "But it's not just teaching children in schools, it's understanding that adults understand the impact of it."

But she says the every day person also can do things to help prevent child abuse before it happens.

"Sometimes prevention is as simple as getting to know your neighbors. When you know there's a new parent in the neighborhood, the first few months there's a lot of support for that parent. Three, four, five months down the road, the support for that brand new parent isn't there anymore," she said. "If you're a neighbor, you can provide that support. Give mom a little bit of a break."

Cleary says the numbers of child abuse cases remain steady in central New York. Last year, there were 6,800 reports of child abuse and neglect. Of that more than 350 were sexual abuse cases; the rest would be considered maltreatment.    

Cleary also hopes people are reminded of the issue of child abuse when they see pinwheels planted in gardens across the Syracuse area. Pinwheels are the national symbol of child abuse awareness and prevention.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.