The end of summer and the start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children. But for some, the beginning of school could reveal a dark secret when signs of abuse and neglect these children have suffered over the summer are noticed by teachers, staff and other parents.
“Because children are subject to less adult supervision over the summer, it’s not uncommon for reports of suspected abuse and neglect to spike at the start of the school year,” said Danita Abernathy, CASA for Children, Executive Director.
Many of the children who are confirmed as victims are removed from their homes and placed into foster care—often far from their friends, families and schools. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers from the local CASA for Children program are specially screened and trained to speak up for abused and neglected children who, through no fault of their own, end up in the foster care system.
“Being uprooted from their homes and families is scary for these children. We at CASA for Children want to make sure that they do not get lost in the overburdened foster care system,” Abernathy said. “For that reason, we need more people in our community to speak up and make sure these children’s voices are heard. We want to help ensure that their stay in foster care is as short as possible and that they are placed in safe, loving homes quickly so they can begin to heal.”
In 2013 there were 303 children in the child protection system in Bowie and Miller counties and only 61 CASA volunteers to advocate for their best interests.
“Too many children are forced to go through the chaos of moving through the child protection system alone,” Abernathy said. “CASA for Children needs more volunteers to step up and be a voice for children who desperately need them.”
Rita Smith has been a CASA volunteer for 5 years. As a CASA volunteer, she advocates for children’s needs in court and in the child welfare system. She helps them through their struggles in foster care. Rita’s number one goal is to help the children find a safe, loving family.
“We need more dedicated CASA volunteers like Rita to walk with children every step of the way and ensure that they are placed into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible,” Abernathy said.
This school year, become a CASA volunteer and help children in need find safe, permanent homes. For more information, visit www.casatexarkana.org and/or call 903-792-1030. The next information sessions will be on Wednesday, August 27th at the Texarkana Office located at 1201 Main Street at 9:00am and again at 5:30pm. CASA will also hold an information session at their new Nashville, Arkansas office located at 113 W. Clark Street at the same times on August 27th and 28th. CASA asks that you choose a location and time that best fits your schedule and attend one of the sessions to learn how you can make a huge impact on an abused child’s life.