If you're passing by Hagerstown's City Park after dark this month, you may notice thousands of blue lights shining there. It's not a celebration of spring's arrival, but a reminder that for every bulb glowing in the park, there's a local child who's been abused or neglected. But this sad situation need not continue, if the public gets involved.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and local officials who deal with these situations are hoping to raise citizens' awareness of the problem and how to deal with it.
How bad is the problem here? In a March 2001 interview, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said that the year before, the county had the state's highest per-capita rate of child abuse and neglect, including 268 cases of neglect. Christoffel also noted that the situation was made worse by the area's high teen-pregnancy rate.
There are agencies that deal with abuse after the fact, including the Child Advocacy Center on Walnut Street in Hagerstown, where law enforcement and other agencies' personnel can interview a child after something has occurred. CASA - Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused - also offers services for children who've been abused.