In a time when everything seems uncertain, one thing is sure: Children need a voice.
Child abuse and neglect are likely on the rise in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as families are put under more financial and emotional stress. Children are no longer in the public eye -- they are not at schools or day care, or in other locations where caring individuals would be able to spot signs of abuse. One group of volunteers in Sequoyah County is working hard to ensure that abuse and neglect do not go unnoticed.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are everyday community members who volunteer to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. Volunteers get to know the children they serve on a personal level and communicate with everyone involved in their life, including family members, foster parents, social workers, teachers and many others. They work with all parties on the case to build and strengthen a lifetime network of committed adults who will support the child, and each other, even after the child’s time in foster care ends.
“We need volunteers now more than ever,” said Suzanne Hughes, executive director of CASA for Children. “We are doing everything we can to encourage the community to take notice and report suspected abuse, but we need to prepare for a significant increase in case numbers in the wake of this crisis.”
Last year, 119 CASA volunteers served 339 children in the foster care system throughout the three-county area served by CASA for Children, but there are many children still in need of a volunteer to advocate for their best interests. CASA is recruiting more volunteers who can help support these children during this crisis.
The volunteer recruitment, screening and training process have all moved online to continue to expand the CASA volunteer roster. The next Zoom information session will be held Tuesday, April 28, at 9:30 a.m. Those interested in attending this information session should email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
For more information on CASA for Children, visit the CASA website at www.casaok.org.
To report suspected abuse, call the Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 522-3511. If the child is in imminent danger, contact 9-1-1 or your local law enforcement agency.
KXMX News Staff
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