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Thu, May 19

Community View | Observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Arizona is empowering its volunteers and encouraging the public to be a safe place for the thousands of local children who find themselves victimized or at risk. CASA of Arizona (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is asking Arizonans to consider stepping up to a role that could help save a child’s life by providing that extra layer of oversight and communication for this vulnerable group of children.

On any given day, there are more than 13,500 children and youths in Arizona living in foster care, or with relatives, group homes, shelters or residential treatment centers, due to being removed from their parents’ care. Statistics show the vast majority of these children were removed from their original homes after already suffering abuse of some kind. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges throughout the state to advocate for the best interests of these children in court and other settings. Right now, there are 1,235 CASA volunteers in Arizona serving 1,418 children. Tragically, there are more than 12,000 children on the waiting list.

CASA volunteers help children in the court system by serving as a consistent advocate for the child and an adviser to the judge in the child’s case. They are there to build very real and meaningful relationships and give the judge a perspective of the child’s situation that they may not otherwise see. These relationships very often become a safe and trusted place for a victimized or at-risk child to talk about what is happening at home.

According to Childhelp, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in the United States. Over the past six months in Arizona, the Child Abuse Hotline received 22,265 calls reporting information that led to a Department of Child Services report. In 2019, 100 Arizona children died as the result of abuse or neglect. Becoming a CASA is quite literally becoming a potentially life-saving outlet for children with nowhere to turn.

For the volunteer, the experience is often life-changing. It’s an opportunity to serve the community and to give a voice to a child that may otherwise feel voiceless. “I realized how I could fight for an individual child who is in a very vulnerable place,” shared a CASA Arizona volunteer. To volunteer visit www.AZCASAVolunteer.org.

(Charles Gray is the state of Arizona’s CASA Program Manager.)

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