Voices for Children needs more CASA volunteers, looks at challenges tackling child abuse in rural areas
Training for more CASA volunteers is happening June 1
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - April is Child Abuse Prevention month and Voices for Children is working to bring that number of child abuse cases to zero in the Brazos Valley.
The agency serves the seven-county region and recently installed several awareness campaigns around the area, showing the effects of child abuse and neglect. The art display in Grimes County shows 52 pairs of shoes for the number of kids abused or neglected in the county last year.
“The resources we have are not sufficient in the areas you know. We’re close enough to Houston where we can have some resources there but for people in our area it’s pretty, pretty limited resources,” said Ella Johnson, Voices for Children Program Director.
She says they are in need of 33 more Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children in the Child Protective System.
“We’ve had a significant increase from COVID, but some of the state has not had an increase so we don’t know if that’s unique to our area,” Johnson said. “ I would say in our rural counties something we look at that‘s difficult to find is therapists. Therapists and drug rehabilitation centers.” She adds many cases have to do with drugs.
Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons tells us the county jumped from 561 hearings in 2019 to 1,105 in 2020. So far in 2021 they’ve had 553 hearings.
“Our child abuse removals for child protective services have increased tremendously during the pandemic. That’s one thing and what we’ve seen so far in the trend lines for child abuse claims have been steady,” said Parsons. “But we also know that because the many children that haven’t been able to go back to school yet because of the pandemic, many times teachers are our first responders,” Parsons said.
Voices for Children hopes their shoe displays in the counties they serve will strike conversations for change and inspire more people to volunteer their time.
“People kind of forget that it can happen even in these smaller communities that these children experience abuse and neglect, even in these small towns. I think by having the shoes it’s just a visual reminder that this happens, also there are ways that we can prevent it,” said Norma Noonan, Voices for Children Volunteer and Donor Relations Coordinator.
Voices for Children said there is added flexibility with meetings and even many hearings happening on video conference.
They can be reached at (979) 822-9700
The next training to be a CASA volunteer is June 1. The application deadline is May 17.
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