Blue for Child Abuse Awareness


In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Weiss Child Advocacy Center, Priority Children and Whaley Children’s Center collaborated to raise awareness throughout Genesee County with the Paint Our Town Blue campaign. This campaign included a candlelight vigil, Super Hero 5K Run, Wear Blue Day and Blue Sunday, all taking place through the month of April and began with a kickoff event at Hurley Medical Center.

On April 3, the Paint Our Town Blue Kickoff announced the focus of the 2017 awareness campaign: #speakup810. The agenda included three speakers: Robert Ennis, President and Founder of Ennis Center for Children, Inc., along with Tamara Phillips, Genesee County Assistant Prosecutor, and Mattie Pearson, RN, who works at Hurley Medical Center and is a member of the Weiss Advocacy Center Executive Board. The speakers had a unified message: if you suspect that a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, come forward. The Paint Our Town Blue kickoff event concluded with the dedication of a pinwheel garden at Hurley.


The blue pinwheel gardens were planted around schools and offices all over Genesee County. They are a symbol of child abuse awareness and a reminder that all children deserve a loving childhood, in which they are supported and cared for by the adults in their lives. The pinwheels are a way to spread hope and awareness, and to remind people to speak up, so that Genesee County can reduce or eliminate child abuse and neglect.

According to Mattie Pearson, it is important to speak up for children, because abuse becomes a cycle that negatively impacts the community. “It is not just one family that is affected, but everyone who comes in contact with an abused or neglected child suffers,” she says. This is especially troubling when, Pearson adds, all cases of child abuse are 100 percent preventable through awareness, education and speaking up. Because of the ripple effect to everyone surrounding a child, abuse creates a lasting consequence in the community, becoming a bigger problem with cases rising. “Last year, Genesee County had 2,000 cases of abuse and neglect,” Pearson states.

Tamara Phillips, Genesee County Assistant Prosecutor for over 19 years, also paints a bleak picture. “We’re seeing an increase the number of abuse cases every year,” she states. But, Paint the Town Blue focuses on prevention and the hope that encouraging Genesee County residents to alert authorities to child abuse will stop the numbers from growing.


FXQuadro /

The Weiss Mission

Weiss Child Advocacy Center is a resource for children and families dealing with abuse or neglect in Genesee County, dedicated to protection and prevention. All of their services are completely free to the families they support. Weiss has a skilled team of professionals comprised of members of many organizations who work together in the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases. But, Weiss also focuses much of its efforts on prevention through education and raising awareness.

Their extensive training programs geared toward children cover topics including body safety training, what healthy relationships look like and internet safety, among others. Parent education is offered to help adults identify and respond to potential child abuse and neglect as well as encouraging safe sleep methods for children, and how to cope with crying infants.

The Weiss team believes that healthy children make for a healthy community, and following that belief, the Center is a support system working toward the hope that all children in Genesee County will have safe and healthy childhoods. But they cannot achieve the goal alone.

The Executive Board at Weiss is dedicated to the safety and well-being of children and includes civic and community leaders such as Angie Hendershot, News Anchor at WJRT ABC12; Bonnie McArthur, Former Developmental Director at Kettering; and Michael Simon, Mott Community College Board Vice President. It also includes local law enforcement such as Sheriff Robert Pickell, Judge Duncan Beagle, City of Flint Police Chief Tim Johnson and Davison Township Police Chief, Rick Freeman.

Ennis Center and Priority Children

Ennis Center for Children has worked with children and families throughout Michigan for over 39 years. They have four facilities, including one in Flint that serves all of Genesee County. Ennis helps children from birth to 19 who are in need of family stability or a permanent home. According to Ennis Center, they primarily serve kids who come from “poor, at-risk backgrounds, many of them are abused, neglected, abandoned and medically and/or emotionally fragile.” They offer a foster care program, adoptions, outpatient counseling, and a youth assistance program among many others.

Priority Children is a “broad-based community coalition comprised of leaders from business, education, health care, human services and charitable organizations.” Priority Children focuses on the “opportunity youth” project, which is based on a hidden crisis report that highlights Genesee County youth between 16 and 24 years of age without diplomas or jobs. Priority Children also works to improve kids’ access to mental health services and summer learning opportunities. The organization works in partnership with Weiss Child Advocacy Center.

Discha-AS /

Discha-AS /

Speak Up!

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, alert authorities. During his address at the kickoff event, Bob Ennis stressed the need for people to be aware of the uncomfortable feeling they want to avoid when it comes to confronting child abuse. He encouraged attendees to speak up when they feel that something is “just not right,” noting that while abuse and neglect aren’t things that we enjoy talking about, avoiding the subjects does not make them go away. “If we don’t speak up, it’s going to get worse,” Ennis says, and adds that when we interact with children, “If you know something’s not right, listen to them, please. Speak up.”

If you suspect that a child (under 18 years of age) might be abused or neglected, call Child Protective Services at 855.444.3911. Calls can be made 24 hours a day.

Volunteer Opportunities

The network of community organizations working together for Genesee County kids is always in need of volunteers. Whaley Children’s Center has volunteer opportunities for tutors, recreation leaders, gardeners, holiday gift-wrappers in winter, and IT help, to name a few. Priority Children is also always looking for volunteers for events, social media, administrative tasks, and more.

Weiss Child Advocacy Center also relies on the community for support. Volunteer opportunities at Weiss include: becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate specially trained to work on behalf of children in foster care; hosting families, helping with clerical work or gardening, or becoming a “Weiss Ambassador” to inform the community about the services offered at the Center.
For more info, visit,, and

Photography by Eric Dutro



Comments are closed.