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April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month – an important reminder to all of us of how essential it is to spread awareness about child abuse in our community. The Child Protective Services Data book was recently released and last year, there were over 5,400 confirmed child abuse/neglect cases in Bexar County.  These numbers are shocking, yet so many of us are unaware of this epidemic right here in our community. 

Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA) advocates on behalf of these children who have been removed from their home due to abuse and neglect. Once a child has been removed from their home the court steps in and assigns a CASA Advocate to that child’s case. The role of the volunteer is to advocate on behalf of the child and their best interests, and ensure no child falls through the cracks of an overburdened system. The Advocate also serves as the “eyes and ears” of the judge, and provides recommendations based on their firsthand experience spending quality time with the child, their placement family, and their educators.  These volunteers are often the only familiar face that the child will have throughout their CPS case.   

CASA volunteers are at the forefront of fighting the epidemic of child abuse in our community. As it becomes increasingly difficult for the courts and social workers to make the system function for families and children, judges continue to appoint CASA to as many cases as possible, recognizing the importance of the role a community member can play in a child’s life. Now more than ever, they rely on our Advocates’ independent and impartial recommendations to speak to the needs and best interests of the child. CASA volunteers are essential because they provide valuable information and insight about each one of these children, helping to ensure that they do not become another statistic in the often times generational cycle of abuse. Judge Peter Sakai of the 225th District Court emphasized the importance of CASA’s role, saying, “The best way to prevent child abuse is to stop the cycle. Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA) gives these young victims what no agency can: someone to speak up for them and someone to trust.”

A CASA Advocate has the opportunity to have a lasting impact in the life of a child who has suffered from child abuse or neglect. Studies have shown that a child who has a CASA Advocate on his or her case is 50% less likely to re-enter foster care system, and are able to find a permanent and safe home 8 months faster than a child without a CASA volunteer.. As a result of this success, the Bexar County judges have requested that every child in the system receive a CASA volunteer by the year 2020. Today, almost half of the children removed from their homes receive a CASA Advocate, but the need for volunteers continues to grow. 

This month and throughout the year, we need to spread awareness about not only the problem of child abuse, but how the community can work together to stand up for our children.  One of the most effective ways to raise awareness about CASA and the important work that we are doing in the community is through good, old-fashioned “word of mouth.”  There are many civic groups and other member-based organizations (e.g., churches, alumni groups, fraternities/sororities, etc.) within our community that have monthly meetings.  If you belong to one such organization, invite CASA to present – what better time than Child Abuse Awareness Month to spread the word about CASA?  You can also utilize social media to spread awareness.  “Like” CASA on facebook and get involved!  Tag yourself in photos, tag us in a post if you’re at one of our events, and share our posts with your friends.  Follow us on twitter and retweeet our tweets.  And on LinkedIn, add CASA to the volunteering section of your profile.  Sharing the CASA mission online is an important way to spread the word to your friends and family.

Child Advocates San Antonio is a volunteer driven organization whose primary responsibility is to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children who have entered the foster care system.   Because the abuse and neglect of children is a community challenge, what better way to meet that challenge than through the mobilization of community volunteers?

We all have the power to make a difference and become heroes in our everyday life. We are given the gift of knowing we can change the world around us for the better.

To support CASA through a monetary gift please click here.

CASA president and CEO Rick Cooke

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month