CASA fighting child abuse

There are many different definitions of child abuse, but in the end it comes down to a child being hurt emotionally, physically or sexually, or when basic needs are not being met.

By the end of the day, over 9,000 cases of child abuse will be reported nationwide. Four of those children will die from the hands of their abuser. All in a single day.

Reviewing these statistics during April – National Child Abuse Prevention Month – you may be asking yourself, “What can I possibly do to make a difference?”

“The answer is, you can do a lot,” said Lisa Thompson, director of Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Warren/Forest counties. “Everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children.”

Teachers, child care workers, health care providers and others who come into daily contact with children can be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect.

“Their actions to report suspected abuse or to offer extra time and attention to fragile children can do more than make a difference,” Thompson said. “It can save lives.”

CASA volunteers stand up for abused and neglected children, Thomspon said, and they can give them a voice in a “over-burdened child welfare system that is hard-pressed to meet their individual needs.”

Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate, she said, adding there are steps residents can take to make the community safer for children:

Keep Pennsylvania’s toll-free child abuse hotline number, 1-800-932-0313, close at hand. Suspected child abuse or neglect can be reported confidentially.

Donate or volunteer for a social service agency that helps children who have been abused or neglected such as A Safe Place, The Exchange Club and the Salvation Army.

Be educated about the devastating toll of abuse and neglect take on children and our society as a whole, Thompson said.

“Your advocacy for children will not only help end child abuse, it will improve our community for everyone who lives here,” she said. “Children who are abused and do not get the support they need to heal are more likely than other kids to drop out of school, end up homeless, turn to crime, and rely as adults on social welfare programs. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives while also saving tax dollars. When we work together we can protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn to grow in the safe embrace of a loving family.”

To volunteer with CASA, call 723-4434 or email casa@jdfamilycenter.org.