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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Help fight domestic violence, child abuse




CASA of Gila County Recognizes
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
                       

(Payson, Ariz.—October 3, 2013) As October 1st marked the beginning of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program of Gila County is encouraging the community to take action.  There is a strong connection between domestic violence and child abuse, and the CASA of Gila County program is currently seeking new volunteers to advocate for these abused and neglected children in court.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, one or more children witness domestic violence in Arizona every 44 minutes.  In addition, up to 60% of perpetrators of partner violence also abuse their children.  The effects of domestic violence on children are significant, and can include feelings ranging from fear and anxiety to isolation and worthlessness. CASA of Gila County recognizes that domestic violence is child abuse, and is actively recruiting community volunteers to speak up for the best interest of abused and neglected children.

Currently in the Town of Payson, there are 23 cases containing 41 children that have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.  Despite this alarming number, there are currently only 16 active CASA volunteers that are advocating for these children in court.

“I wish I had become a CASA volunteer a long time ago,” says Maxine Piper, a current CASA volunteer in Gila County. “There is a lot of flexibility, and a huge amount of satisfaction…I love being able to touch so many aspects of a case.” Piper joined the CASA Program in February 2012 and is currently on her fourth case.  She emphasizes the impact of her volunteer work in saying “Just the idea that you could actually make a difference in a child’s life…how important is that?”

CASA volunteers serve as critical figures in the lives of children who have suffered from abuse or neglect.  After receiving special training and being appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers gather all of the information involving a child’s case, and make formal recommendations to the court on the child’s behalf. For many children, their CASA volunteer is the only consistent adult presence they have experienced in their lifetime.

For more information on CASA of Gila County or how you can become a volunteer, contact Lyndsie Butler at 928-474-7146 or visit www.CASAofGilaCounty.org 

More about CASA:

The CASA program is managed by the Arizona Supreme Court and has offices in all 15 Arizona counties. County programs recruit and train community-based volunteers to speak up for the rights of abused and neglected children in court. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to foster children who have the greatest need for an advocate. Volunteers do not provide placement or a home for the child, but are strictly advocates who submit their recommendations directly to the judge hearing a child’s case. CASA volunteers complete 30 hours of training to prepare them for their duties.

Child Abuse Statistics:

·         In the six month period of October 2012 to March 2013, the Child Abuse Hotline received 32,300 calls.

·         Neglect is the most common form of child abuse followed by physical abuse.

·         Reports of child abuse and neglect have been consistently rising in Arizona since 2010.

·         There are currently 14,314 Arizona children living in out-of-home care.

·         The majority of children who are in out-of-home care in Arizona (34.5%) are ages 1 to 5.

CASA Volunteers:

·         Volunteers must be at least 21 years old.

·         Volunteers go through a rigorous screening process including interviews, reference check, a fingerprint check, and polygraph exam.

·         Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to one case until its conclusion, typically involving 10-20 hours per month.

·         Volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training.

·         CASA volunteers are advocates, not mentors. Their objective is to help the court system determine the best outcome for the child.

·         CASA volunteers try to build a 360-degree view of the child and his or her surroundings. To do this, they meet with teachers, counselors, physicians, and guardians.

·         CASA volunteers work to ensure that children are in safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.

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