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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Women hope signs raise abuse awareness

BY TIM POTTER
The Wichita Eagle

Beverly Van Es says her idea for a yard sign aimed at child abuse awareness and prevention came after she read an Eagle editorial Thursday.

The editorial pointed out the recent death of Vincent Hill, a 19-month-old North Newton boy — a victim of severe child abuse, authorities say. More than two months before Vincent died and his mother and her boyfriend were charged with injuring him, the toddler's neighbor reported to a state child abuse call center that she heard a man yelling and a child screaming at Vincent's duplex.

But SRS decided no follow-up investigation was needed, and police weren't notified, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton has said. One of the lessons, Walton said, is that that people should call 911, because such a call would have led authorities to knock on Vincent's door.

He is the fourth Wichita-area toddler or infant to die in the past five months from injuries involving child abuse.

After Van Es read the editorial about Vincent's case and other recent child abuse-related deaths, "I got on my knees and said, 'Why, God? Why did this happen to this child? What can I do to help?'

"It came to me," she said.

"Yard signs."

The 69-year-old Wichita woman decided yard signs could promote the need to call 911 to report any child abuse suspicion.

The signs would "make the person doing the injury think, 'I will be reported, people are watching,' " she said.

Van Es had her friend, Lily Hill, read the editorial, "and she was as upset as I was," Van Es said.

The women are mothers and grandmothers. They say they try to do God's work.

"Lily's very good with words," Van Es said.

Hill said she decided that Vincent "needed to be represented."

She prayed about the situation, she said, and the words came to her: "Be aware. Child abuse can be anywhere. Call 911."

The two friends have ordered and are paying for 100 yard signs with that message, and they hope that charitable groups or anyone who wants to help spread the message will buy more signs.

Their goal, Hill said, is "to get that sign out on every block."

She said her message for anyone who knows of possible abuse is this: "They got to call 911. Get somebody over there now, not after the paperwork's done."

"And we're on a mission," Van Es said.

The women ask that anyone seeking more information about the project call 316-838-8601 or 316-943-1437.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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