Sunday, Apr 8, 2018
Original article published in The Brownsville Herald on April 8th, 2018 by Mark Reagan http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/casa-raises-voices-against-child-abuse/article_f588d58a-3b97-11e8-b6d2-fb0e95bf4e1a.html
County officials and members of the public recently gathered in LinearPark with Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, to highlight Child Abuse Awareness Month.
“Our organization is volunteer-based,” said CASA Executive Director Dora Martinez. “What sets us apart is we recruit volunteers from the community to be a voice for these children while they are in the foster care system.”
CASA of Cameron and WillacyCounties is part of a national volunteer movement that began in 1977 when a Seattle judge decided he needed to know more about the victims of abuse and neglect in his courts. The nonprofit continues in that mission to provide trained community volunteers to act as a voice for children within the courts.
“Our goal is to continue to see them through the system, support them and, in the end, hopefully recommend a home that is safe, that is permanent and get them out of the foster care system,” Martinez said.
And there’s a lot of work to do.
In 2017, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office handled 376 cases of child abuse ranging from physical and sexual abuse to child neglect or endangerment, according to statistics provided by the DA’s Child Abuse Unit.
Of those cases, 140 concerned sexual abuse and 154 focused on physical abuse. The Child Abuse Unit, which handles the most egregious cases, prosecuted 64 cases.
Here in the Rio GrandeValley, CASA still needs volunteers to reach its goal of having a CASA representative for every child that has been a victim of abuse, Martinez said.
The only requirements include being 21 or older, passing a criminal and Child Protective Services background check and committing to training and at least one year of service, which is typically how long a child in this situation is in foster care, Martinez said.
A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com