(ROCKWALL, TX — August 24, 2017) Backpacks, pencils and notebooks are filling up the aisles in stores all over Texas, reminding us that a new school year is just around the corner. The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for most children, but it can also lead to more reports of abuse and neglect as faculty, staff and other parents notice signs of maltreatment children may have endured during their time away.
In 2016, schools were the most common source of child abuse or neglect reports made to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Of the more than 293,000 reports – a significant increase from last year – a total of 56,980 allegations were from school officials.
“During the summer, it is likely that signs of abuse or neglect will go unnoticed due to fewer interactions with adults outside their family,” said Lucille Bell, executive director of Lone Star CASA. “Fortunately, teachers and school officials are required to report any signs of abuse, so it is quite common for there to be a rise in reports when school starts again.”
The increase in DFPS reports during the new school year frequently leads to more children entering the overburdened child welfare system, creating an urgent need for more CASA volunteers to speak up for the best interests of these children.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are everyday members of the community that are properly trained and appointed by judges to advocate for children in court. Volunteers are selected to serve one child or sibling group, and tasked with evaluating their well-being by getting to know them and speaking to any and all relevant contacts in their lives in order to accurately assess their situation at their foster placement, at school and in other settings.
“In addition to the abuse or neglect they’ve already suffered, it is traumatizing for children to be placed in foster care, because they are taken away from their home, family, friends and everything they have ever known due to no fault of their own,” said Bell. “Our committed volunteers at Lone Star CASA work hard to ensure that they provide a voice for them and protect their best interests.”
CASA volunteers make an effort to form a relationship with these children individually, while gathering important information about their unique physical, emotional and educational needs. They communicate their recommendations to the court in an effort to help children move out of the temporary system and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Lone Star CASA is currently serving 129 children in Kaufman and Rockwall counties, and that number that is likely to grow as the school year begins.
“Lone Star CASA needs more advocates that can make a difference in the lives of these children, especially now that back-to-school season has begun,” said Bell. “Become a volunteer to ensure that all children get the support they deserve both in school and beyond – giving them a chance at a brighter future.”
The next training begins September 5, 2017. The deadline to complete an application and pre-training interview is Wednesday, August 23rd. For more information, visit www.lonestarcasa.org or call 972-772-5858.
Submitted press release.
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