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A series of laws aimed at streamlining the reporting of suspected child abuse took effect at the end of 2014, and the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families has already seen its workload increase.

In the first three months of 2015, the agency has seen the number of reported suspected abuse increase about 50 percent, said Michelle Hovis, its interim executive director.

The agency received about 300 reports of abuse each month so far this year, she said.

"We knew the change in law would have a profound impact," Hovis said after she and other county and York City officials gathered to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The more than 20 laws, which took effect on Dec. 31, redefined child abuse and also expanded the list of mandatory reporters, among other changes.

Prevention: As part of the kickoff event held at York College on Monday, officials also unveiled a pinwheel garden at the Country Club Road campus. Another garden is located at the Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center, 2100 E. Market St., and the largest of the three is at the corner of South George Street and Rathton Road, near York Hospital.

The 1,320 pinwheels near the hospital represent the number of suspected victims of child abuse in York County in 2013, said Deborah Harrison, executive director of the York County Children's Advocacy Center.

Of those, 139 were substantiated through an investigation, according to the state Department of Human Services.

"There is no greater tragedy than the loss of innocence ... through trauma," said Rick Azzaro, chief services officer with the York YWCA.

Lifelong problems: Wes Kahley, chief of York City Police, said the lasting trauma caused by child abuse can lead to victims' future run-ins with law enforcement.

Raising awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month, which also encourages people to report suspected child abuse is a start, but it also codifies "what has always been our moral responsibility," said Tom Kearney, the York County District Attorney.

York County ranks third in the state in terms of reported child abuse cases, and there are numerous programs aimed at help- ing abused children, Harrison said.

"We've done a tremendous amount of work in York County ... but there's much more to be done," said Dr. David Turkewitz of York Hospital.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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