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National Child Abuse Prevention Month shines light on local need for volunteers

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and CASA of Southeast Texas is raising awareness of the need for more dedicated members of the community to step up and become CASA volunteers, and help end child abuse and neglect, through supporting children and their families.

CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, are everyday people from all walks of life who are recruited and specially trained to advocate for children in foster care and provide a consistent, reliable adult presence for them during a difficult time in their life.

“Our volunteers’ first priority is to keep families together whenever safe and possible,” said Elizabeth Woods, executive director of CASA of Southeast Texas. “Foster care is only a temporary solution to the problems at hand. We need to create long term support networks that work to care for families, make reunification a possibility and help break the cycle for the next generation.”

CASA volunteers are assigned to one child or sibling group to advocate for their best interest in court, in school and in other settings.

They get to know the child and everyone involved in their life, such as their parents and other family members, foster parents, therapists, caseworkers and teachers, in order to develop a realistic picture of the child’s unique situation.

More than 200 blue crosses were displayed in 2020 in the front lawn of CASA’s office in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month. (Courtesy photo)

They engage those important to the child and family in order to build a network of support around them, so that the family has access to support and resources after the case ends.

They make recommendations to the judge overseeing the child’s case, with the goal of ensuring that the child is safe and the family has the resources, support and healthy relationships needed to heal.

Locally, CASA of Southeast Texas  served 444 children in the foster care system in Jefferson County in 2020, which means there are still 444 children who need someone to advocate for them. This April, consider stepping up to make a difference by becoming a CASA volunteer.

“There is always a need for more CASA volunteers,” Woods said. “By becoming a volunteer, you can take your efforts beyond just awareness, and do your part to help support children and families in crisis right here in our community.”

When reunification is not a possibility for the children they serve, CASA volunteers work to find others that can provide a positive, healthy and loving environment. These can include relatives, friends or other adults that are important in the child’s life — keeping a child connected to their home community.

“We at CASA of Southeast Texas always hope for the day when CASA, foster care and a national month dedicated to child abuse prevention are no longer needed because all children are growing up safe, secure and supported with their families,” Woods said. “Until then, we will continue to seek more members of the community to join our growing movement so that we can provide a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you see abuse, report it to 1 (800) 252-5400 or go to txabusehotline.org. If a child’s life is in danger, call 911. For more information on CASA, visit BecomeaCASA.org, casasetx.org or call us at 409-832-2272. The next training session is virtual with Orientation April 1 at 5:30 p.m. and classes beginning April 6.