CASA for Hunt County Focuses on Supporting Families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and CASA for Hunt County is raising awareness that prevention is possible, and that everyone has a role in accomplishing this.
“Prevention of child abuse and neglect is achievable,” said Lori Cope, Executive Director of CASA for Hunt County. “It takes strong communities that have the resources and services that will assist families when they need help and citizens that will assist in implementing these resources and services.”
Prevention is a term used to describe an intervention into a family or household with the primary goals of preventing a child from entering into the foster care system and ensuring a safe environment within the household, according to an article posted by Texas CASA.
“People involved in this system – from the courts to Child Protective Services (CPS) to attorneys to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) – the first priority is to keep families together whenever it is safe and possible,” said Cope. “and having and utilizing prevention resources and services are key.”
In most families, a parent or parents make best interest decisions for their child or children, and they provide, at least, the minimum sufficient level of care (food, clothing, shelter, safety, medical/educational needs). But when that parent or parents cannot, or will not, then the state must intervene for the safety and protection of the child, Cope said.
Intervention includes providing parents with the resources and services needed to become successful and safe parents. This can be with or without their children present in the home.
Yet intervention also takes citizens within the community being involved with civic, church, or non-profit programs and organization that provide these resources and services.
Another way citizens can help is by directly reaching out to and supporting parents and kids in your family and community. By lending a hand when a family needs childcare to help alleviate stress; donate items such as clothing, diapers, and toys; provide money in times of crisis; be a listening ear and a positive encourager.
Prevention services must reduce risk factors (factors that correlate with child abuse and neglect) and promote protective factors (factors that may decrease the likelihood of abuse and neglect) to ensure the well-being of children and families.
When abuse or neglect prevention is not successful and it is no longer safe for children to remain in their home, the judge orders the children to be removed from the home and names Child Protective Services as the children’s temporary conservator. The judge also names an attorney for the children, and appoints a screened and trained CASA volunteer advocate to be an independent voice for the children.
CASA volunteers 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.
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 parents and other family members, foster parents, therapists, caseworkers and teachers, in order to develop a realistic picture of the child’s unique situation. 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 CASA and CPS involvement has ended. 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 for Hunt County served 358 children in the foster care system in Hunt County in 2019. This April, consider stepping up to make a difference by becoming a CASA volunteer.
“There is still a need for CASA volunteers,” said Cope. “By becoming a CASA volunteer, you can take your efforts beyond just awareness, and do your part to help support children and families 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 for Hunt County 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,” said Cope. “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.”
CASA for Hunt County is still conducting CASA Volunteer Training Courses during the COVID-19 safety precautions. The course work is online and through Zoom video conferencing. For more information on the next Volunteer Training Course, call 903-450-4410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you see abuse, report it to 1 (800) 252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org. If a child’s life is in danger, call 911..