CHAMPAIGN — The "Blue Kids" will be back out in the local community, starting Thursday and Friday.
But local authorities hope the wooden, kid-shaped cutouts will do more than serve as silent witnesses of the victims of child abuse and neglect.
Real signs of suspected child abuse and neglect should be reported, so they can be investigated.
The Blue Kids campaign is sponsored by the Children's Advocacy Center, which will be putting up about 30 of the child-shaped cut-outs around the community for the month of April, nationally recognized as a month to raise awareness about child abuse prevention.
Mike Williams, the agency's executive director, said there are about 1,800 cases of child abuse or neglect reported in Champaign County a year on an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services hot line.
The Children's Advocacy Center provides a child-friendly setting for law enforcement and the DCFS to conduct interviews with victims of suspected abuse and neglect. It also provides crisis intervention for children and families and refers them to other community agencies for services they may need.
Not all reports turn out to be actual abuse and neglect cases, William said.
But, he also says, "I think we have to recognize there are (abused and neglected) children who never come to the attention of authority."
Signs of child abuse or neglect to watch out for include unexplained injuries, sudden changes in behavior, a fear of going home, changes in eating or sleeping behavior, changes in school performance, lack of attention to personal appearance or hygiene, and inappropriate sexual behavior, he said.
Those signs of abuse don't always mean abuse, Williams warns, but if they're occurring without any reasonable explanation, "it would certainly be a concern," Williams said.
He tells parents they're in the best position to recognize changes going on in their children.
"You know your child better than anybody," he says.
In addition to the Blue Kids campaign, look for these other events coming up to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect:
— Friday: A kick-off event is planned for the WCIA Channel 3 morning show, and free coffee and a bagel, courtesy of Einstein Bros. Bagels and a blue ribbon to raise awareness will be passed out to the first 100 people who drive by the WCIA parking lot starting at 6 a.m. The blue ribbon is the international symbol for child abuse prevention.
— April 2: Crisis Nursery hopes to wrap its building with a human blue ribbon, and is inviting the public to show up wearing blue starting at noon. The first 125 people to arrive will get a free lunch provided by Einstein Bros. Bagels.
— Champaign County CASA will display more than 450 blue pinwheels in front of the Champaign County Courthouse during Apri. Each one represents a child who's been in the court system as a result of abuse or neglect.
— First responder vehicles in Champaign County will display blue ribbon magnets throughout April.
To report abuse or neglect, the DCFS hot line number is: 1-800-25-ABUSE
To learn more about reporting child abuse and neglect through the hot line: http://bit.ly/tnxdpp