HOLMES AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES - The month of April is recognized nationally as Child Abuse Prevention Month, and local businesses and organizations are helping raise awareness.

Motorists traveling through Holmes and Washington Counties will see blue ribbons and pinwheels placed to help draw attention to this epidemic - one that had a 2012 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study rank Florida as the "second deadliest state for children."

A 2015 report states that from October 2014 to September 2015, 409 children in Holmes County and 489 children in Washington County were the subject of documented maltreatment.

The Pinwheels for Prevention campaign is a partnership between the Florida Department of Children and Families and Prevent Child Abuse Florida. The initiative’s goal is to highlight programs and activities that promote healthy child development and prevention of child abuse.

Children at Kid's World learning center in Chipley recently placed blue pinwheels around the school's front drive in an effort to promote awareness and education about the issue of child abuse and neglect.

Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is holding several events and encouraging residents to help "Paint the Town Blue."

Throughout the month of April, individuals can stop by the CAC locations in Panama City, Marianna and Chipley to pick up blue ribbons, wristbands, and t-shirts to show support of the combined efforts to stop child abuse.

Another fundraiser will be held at Beef O’Brady’s in Lynn Haven. For the entire month of April, Beef O’Brady’s customers will have the opportunity to add a donation to their bill.

“Child abuse prevention month is a reminder that we must all be advocates for our children,” said Department of Children and Families Assistant Secretary of Operations Vicki Abrams. “The children our child protective investigators see live in our communities and attend our schools and churches."

"This is a community issue that must have a community response. We need to continue to work together to strengthen and support our families, and end the cycle of child abuse and neglect."

The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center provides a child friendly environment and on-site multi-agency collaboration that uses a multidisciplinary approach in prevention, investigation, assessment, protection, and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The multidisciplinary approach allows multi-agency meetings to take place at the beginning of an investigation, therefore expediting referrals for prosecution and services to help strengthen the family and prevent a recurrence of child abuse.

If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, please call the Florida Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).