CASA promotes child abuse awareness

Unfortunately, child abuse is an everyday occurrence, even in West Texas.A World for Children partnered Wednesday with CASA of West Texas to hold a balloon release and awareness event on the courthouse lawn. “This is one of the ways we can promote awareness and allow the community to become more involved,” Tracy Fryar, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program director, said. Last year, CASA served 107 children in Howard County. This year, the number is already at 60. Six other counties are serviced by CASA of West Texas, including Midland, Martin, Glasscock, Gaines, Dawson and Andrews counties. There are 441 youth throughout the area being served within those communities. “Sadly, that number is just the ones we are serving. There are some kids we had to turn away because we didn't have enough volunteers,” said Patty Pisklak, CASA executive director. An ideal number of volunteers would be 25 to 30; however, at this time CASA only has 17 volunteers in the local area. Volunteers must be over 21 years of age, pass a background and CPS check, fill out an application and complete an in-person interview as well as attend 30 hours of training. “Once a volunteer has completed the requirements they can be assigned to a case and serve as an advocate for the child's best interest,” Pisklak said. The ceremony was held in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month, first introduced in 1974 when the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was put into place. Congress hoped to improve awareness in the early 1980s by declaring June 6-12, 1982, National Child Abuse Prevention Week. One more step was taken in 1983 which declared the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month, according to the History of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Throughout the month of April, several ceremonies, events and activities are planned in order to bring awareness to the problem. To become a CASA volunteer or learn more, contact the office at 263-4162.