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Hospital Happenings

News | April 20, 2023

BJACH promotes child abuse prevention with pinwheel planting

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and Parkway Elementary School planted pinwheels April 19 to raise awareness and prioritize the prevention of child abuse during the Month of the Military Child at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Spearheaded by BJACH Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Services, the pinwheel garden was an opportunity to elevate the importance of systems and programs that put children and families first.

According to, the pinwheels for prevention campaign began in 2008 because people respond positively to pinwheels, which represent childlike whimsy and lightheartedness. The vision is for children around the world to grow up happy, health, and prepared to succeed in supportive families and communities.

Brandy Sanders, principal of Parkway Elementary School, said the pinwheel planting was an excellent way to reinforce with the students that they can go to safe adults if they need someone to talk to.

“This was an important event because it builds a greater sense of community between Fort Polk and our school,” she said. “Just as much as we want to be part of the JRTC and Fort Polk team, we want Soldiers and their Families to be a part of the Parkway team.”

Sanders said she is grateful for the support provided by BJACH with the school-based behavioral health program.

“As a military spouse, I know how difficult transitioning from one duty station to the next can be,” she said. “Children sometimes need additional support. Our military kids go through a lot. Having military and family life consultants and Ms. Hannah from BJACH in our school helps support our students and their mental health.”

Sanders said with the school-based behavioral health services, Soldiers don’t have to leave work and kids don’t have to leave school to get the therapy they need.

Allison Hannah, a licensed clinical social work from BJACH, provides school-based behavioral health services at North Polk and Parkway Elementary Schools.

“I volunteered for this position when I learned it was starting at the beginning of this school year,” she said. “I really wanted to do a pinwheel garden at the school because it was an awesome way to help kids understand how important their safety is. When kids feel safe and connected, they have more success in school.”

Hannah said if children don’t feel safe at school, their education will suffer.

“Having this at the school, helps us share resources and explain to children why it’s important for them to feel safe at school,” she said. “This has been a very cool experience. Earlier this week I went into each first-grade classroom and provided them with training on why their safety matters and how their brain works so they can understand why stress and feeling unsafe can affect them in school.”

Hannah said, thanks to a community grant from the Fort Polk Thrift Store, she was able to purchase pinwheels, brain-shaped stress balls with BJACH CAFBS contact information, and a book titled “My Safety Matters” for every first grade and kindergarten student at both Parkway and North Polk Elementary Schools.

Patricia Cornelious, chief of BJACH CAFBHS, is a supervisory clinical psychologist, specializing in the developmental psychology of the pediatric population for the installation.

“Raising awareness through events like these helps the community understand more about why child abuse happens and how we can prevent it,” she said. “Approximately 86% of individuals with developmental disabilities report abuse (emotionally, physically, or sexually). In the past, most of these people spent their lives in institutions shut away from the general population. Parents can become overwhelmed by children with special needs. This pinwheel planting raises awareness that children with developmental delays, and behavioral or emotional issues can be more susceptible to abuse.”

Cornelious said her team was excited to partner with Parkway for this event to highlight the school-based behavioral health services.

“By raising awareness and being present in our community, I hope that we help parents know they are not alone, that there is hope and there are resources available to them and their children,” she said. “Everyone in my department is trained and educated to provide the help and support they need.”

Lt. Col John Gabriel, task force senior, JRTC and Fort Polk Operations Group joined his daughter (seven) for the pinwheel planting.

“It’s important to support my kids in everything they do. I want to be present, so they understand that we are here for them,” he said. “Any opportunity we can participate in, as parents, to reinforce what they are learning in school is important.”

Gabriel said he will always support activities that will help connect what his daughter is learning at school with what his family is doing at home.
Maj. Markesha Hubbard, chief of hospital education and staff development at BJACH, joined her seven-year-old son, for the festivities.

“I wanted to support the pinwheel garden because my son is autistic and the CAFBHS team helps us out a lot,” she said. “It meant a lot to me and my son to be here today.”

Hubbard said her son has sessions weekly with Hannah during the school day.

“The school based behavioral health program is so important for me and my family for so many reasons,” she said. “As a working parent and active-duty Soldier, it makes it much easier for both my son and me. He can have his appointments here, so I don’t have to pull him out of school, and I don’t have to leave work to pick him up and bring him back to BJACH. It’s really a great program.”

Hubbard said raising awareness about child abuse, the school-based behavioral health services, and celebrating military children, is a great way to bring Soldiers and the community together.

Capt. James Walker, hospital chaplain, joined his BJACH colleagues and prayed with the participants during the event.

“Child abuse is a problem in all communities. We have little ones who may not have a voice,” he said. “Sometimes our homes aren’t as safe as we’d hope they would be. Raising awareness about child abuse fosters a love for the voiceless who cannot defend themselves.”

Walker said raising awareness and the team effort of this event lets these children know they are cared for, there are safe places and safe adults they can go to when they are afraid or need help.

“I think it is wonderful that we have embedded behavioral health specialists from Fort Polk in our schools and community to provide support for our military children,” he said. “From the chaplain perspective, we also have several organized groups and resources available as well.”

Walker said it’s important for the installation and local schools to partner for events like this regularly.

“Sometimes there is a disconnect between military and local communities,” he said. “For young families who are new to an area, new to a school, it can feel very lonely, isolated, or detached. When communities like Vernon and Beauregard Parishes step forward and embrace the Families stationed at Fort Polk, I think can ease the difficulty for children who are new school or community.”

Tiffany Koch, school liaison officer, said it is exciting that BJACH expanded the partnership to the community schools.

“Historically, we’ve conducted month of the military child events on the installation,” she said. “So, I was so happy to see this collaborative effort and community engagement between our Soldiers, our behavioral health department and our local schools.”

Editor’s note: The CAFBHS department will be doing a second pinwheel planting with kindergarteners at 2 p.m. on April 28 at North Polk Elementary School.
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